On Tuesday night, SpaceX founder Chief Engineer Elon Musk shared a stunning under-the-hood photograph of the Super Heavy rocket prototype known as Booster 4. SpaceX installed all 29 Raptor engines, suggesting that the rocket will soon undergo pre-flight testing ahead of Starship’s debut orbital flight test. Musk said the powerful methane-fueled Raptor engines combined will generate over ‘12 million pounds of thrust at liftoff’! SpaceX has never ignited over 6 Raptor engines simultaneously, so the upcoming Super Heavy test campaign will be one for the history books. If the vehicle passes all pre-flight testing it will be ready to take flight early next year.
Super Heavy Booster 4 will propel the stainless-steel Starship SN20 spacecraft to orbit and attempt a return to conduct a propulsive ocean landing in the Gulf of Mexico, while SN20 continues a voyage around the planet to land in the water off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii, near a U.S. military base. “Limiting factor for first launch is regulatory approval. Thereafter, fundamental issue is solving engine production,” Musk said, “Prototypes are easy, production is hard.” The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently conducting an environmental assessment of SpaceX’s Starbase rocket factory and launch site at Boca Chica Beach, Texas. The FAA said it expects to complete the assessment by December 31st. Once complete, SpaceX will be able to apply for a Starship flight license to launch the vehicles to orbit. Starship SN20 already initiated it test campaign. Engineers performed a series of proof tests and engine tests on its sea-level and vacuum-optimized Raptors. Super Heavy testing will likely begin in the coming weeks.
12 million pounds of thrust at liftoff pic.twitter.com/4ArkgU4Vff— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 17, 2021
–“ Can't wait for Raptor 2, it's still a rat's nest up there,” a Twitter user jokingly wrote under the Booster 4 photo that shows all the 29 Raptor engines’ complex plumbing and wiring.– “True, although it will look clean with close out panels installed,” Musk responded, “Raptor 2 has significant improvements in every way, but a complete design overhaul is necessary for the engine that can actually make life multiplanetary. It won’t be called Raptor,” he revealed. So, SpaceX’s next-generation Raptor iteration will have a different name. Musk did not provide more hints about what that name would be. Musk will participate at the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (SEM) Space Studies conference this evening, November 17 from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. EST. He plans to discuss the Starship’s development progress. You can watch a Live broadcast of the conference in the video linked below.
True, although it will look clean with close out panels installed.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 17, 2021
Raptor 2 has significant improvements in every way, but a complete design overhaul is necessary for the engine that can actually make life multiplanetary. It won’t be called Raptor.
VIDEO: Elon Musk At National Academies Space Studies Conference (Live on November 17 at 6:00 p.m. EST)
Featured Image Source: Elon Musk via Twitter
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.