SpaceX Installs First Vacuum-Optimized Raptor To Starship Spacecraft To Initiate Testing

Evelyn Arevalo by Evelyn Arevalo October 13, 2021

SpaceX Installs First Vacuum-Optimized Raptor To Starship Spacecraft To Initiate Testing

Featured Image Source: @StarshipGazer via Twitter  

SpaceX’s next-generation launch vehicle is equipped with a new kind of rocket engine. Starship’s Raptor is different than all the engines in the aerospace industry. Designed and manufactured by SpaceX, the Raptor is fueled by Methalox which is a combination of cryogenic liquid methane propellant and liquid oxygen that acts as an oxidizer. Starship’s Super Heavy rocket could have up to 32 Raptor engines, making it the most powerful operational rocket in the world capable of generating over 16 million pounds of thrust!

SpaceX chose to fuel Starship with methane because it will help astronauts refuel the spacecraft on Mars. The Red Planet’s thin atmosphere is carbon dioxide rich and ice-water is found under the Martian soil – ingredients that can easily be used on Mars to synthesize Methalox by using the Sabatier process.

The company is preparing a Super Heavy prototype, Booster 4, at its Starbase facility. The rocket will be equipped with 29 methane-burning engines that will propel the Starship SN20 spacecraft to orbit in the coming months. SpaceX is still pending regulatory approval to conduct the first orbital flight attempt during which Starship will liftoff to orbit from Boca Chica, Texas, and land in the ocean along the coast of Kauai, Hawaii. Read more: NASA Will Monitor SpaceX’s Starship ‘Starbrick’ Heatshield During Orbital Flight Test In 2022

The Starship spacecraft will be equipped with 6 Raptors, 3 sea-level engines for atmospheric flight and three vacuum-optimized Raptors, also known as R-Vac, specifically designed for propulsion in space. R-Vac engines feature a much larger nozzle than sea-level Raptors. SpaceX installed the first vacuum-optimized Raptor on the stainless-steel Starship SN20 vehicle this week ahead of testing. A Starbase photographer known as ‘Starship Gazer' shared a cool set of images of SN20 at the launch mount where it will undergo pre-flight testing, shown below. 

 

A Boca Chica village resident shared they received a letter from SpaceX stating they will conduct testing this week. “To Residents or Occupants Boca Chica Village: SpaceX will conduct Space Test Activities on October 14, 2021 from 5:00pm to 12:00am [Central Time]. Approximately 10 minutes prior to the activity, you will be provided notice by the sounding of a police siren in Boca Chica Village. There may be more than one instance during that time period where you will hear a siren notification,” the company said, “There is a risk that a malfunction of the SpaceX vehicle during these activities will create an overpressure event that can break windows. Therefore, in order to protect Public Health and Safety, it is recommended that you consider temporarily vacating yourself, other occupants, and pets, from the area during the Space Test Activities. At a minimum, you must exit your home or structure and be outside of any building on your property when you hear the police sirens, which will be activated at the time of the Space Test Activity, to avoid or minimize the risk of injury. Thank you for your ongoing cooperation,” SpaceX wrote.
SpaceX already completed a series of cryogenic proof tests on the Starship SN20 orbital spacecraft, engineers are expected to perform a static-fire test of the Raptor(s) on Thursday. It is unclear how many engines will be installed and ignited simultaneously during the brief test.
 

 



Featured Image Source: @StarshipGazer via Twitter  





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