Elon Musk has taken to Twitter to celebrate the first-test fire of the SpaceX Raptor flight engine, which will be used on its next-gen rocket. The company's head honcho shared footage of the thunderous, two-second test conducted at its McGregor, Texas facility, the site where the Raptor was first put through its paces back in September, 2016. SpaceX followed up with an Instagram post confirming that the Raptor performed the "highest thrust ever" from a SpaceX engine, despite operating at 60 percent power.
The methane fuel-powered Raptor marks a technological shift away from the LOX/kerosene mix used in SpaceX's current Merlin engines. This latest test was conducted with warm propellant, with Musk tweeting that he expects a 10 to 20 percent increase in performance when switching to deep cryogenic temperatures.
Musk said that the test engine hit 172 metric tons of force with a chamber pressure of 257 bars: the power levels needed for use in the Super Heavy rocket booster on the Starship (formerly known as the BFR). In the past, Musk has said that as many as 31 Raptor engines could be attached to the Starship, which is designed to be used for trips to Mars as early as 2022.
Though the SpaceX chief has admitted to being "optimistic" about his ambitions, his company recently underwent a seismic change to ensure it can meet its targets. Just last month, SpaceX said it was letting around 10 percent of its 6,000-plus employees go in order to become a leaner enterprise.
Design requires at least 170 metric tons of force. Engine reached 172 mT & 257 bar chamber pressure with warm propellant, which means 10% to 20% more with deep cryo.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 7, 2019