SpaceX’s ultimate goal is to enable humans to live on Mars. The company runs around-the-clock operations to develop the technology and Starship spacecraft that could make it possible. SpaceX founder Elon Musk hopes to have the first sustainable settlement on the Red Planet by the year 2050. The ambitious timeline pushes SpaceX teams to innovate rapidly. The company is preparing to perform its first orbital flight test with a prototype of the Starship launch system, which includes the spacecraft atop a gigantic Super Heavy rocket that will propel it to orbit. The company plans to launch Starship from South Texas to orbit, then land it off the coast of Hawaii during the first orbital flight attempt. This past week, engineers initiated the booster’s test campaign which involves ground testing the stainless-steel vehicle.
SpaceX Initiates Starship Super Heavy Booster's Test Campaignhttps://t.co/fwc83esQvr— Tesmanian.com (@Tesmanian_com) July 10, 2021
Once in operation, the Starship-Super Heavy duo will become the world’s more powerful rocket, capable of lifting over 100 tons of cargo with powerful methalox-fueled Raptor engines. Musk says the rocket could have 29 to 33 Raptor engines. Each Raptor is capable of producing over 200 tons of thrust. The spacecraft will be equipped with 6 Raptors, three sea-level engines for atmospheric flight and three Raptor Vacuum (R-Vac) engines for propulsion in space. These vacuum-optimized engines are much larger. “Worth noting that thrust is only slightly higher with the big bell nozzle version. Larger bell is primarily for efficiency in vacuum. Aiming for 380+ sec Isp for RVac long-term. Initially likely to be ~372,” Musk previously said. Starship will be capable of transporting 100 passengers on long-duration voyages through space. It will feature private cabin rooms and common areas where the space adventurers will hangout in-transit to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. SEE BELOW FOR UPDATED INFORMATION.
On Saturday, Musk shared a photograph of Raptor engines lined up side-by-side inside a hangar that appears to be at Boca Chica Beach in South Texas, where Starship is under development. “Fellowship of the Raptors,” he captioned the photo. The sea-level engines are roughly 3-meters-tall with a 1.3-meter diameter. The vacuum Raptors have a much larger bell nozzle, shown below [exact measurements of RVac pending].
Fellowship of the Raptors pic.twitter.com/Xz3rOsfA2h— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 10, 2021
Starship’s Raptor engines. Left to right: A Sea-level Raptor next to a Raptor Vacuum engine. Image Source: SpaceX
Musk also shared some of SpaceX’s Starship Raptor engine production plans that would enable humanity to colonize Mars over the course of the next 20 years. The company will set-up a new engine manufacturing facility, “We are breaking ground soon on a second Raptor factory at SpaceX Texas test site,” he said via Twitter. The factory will be located in McGregor, TX, where SpaceX currently manufactures and tests the Falcon 9 Merlin engines. “This will focus on volume production of Raptor 2, while California factory will make Raptor Vacuum & new, experimental designs,” he said. “By ‘volume production,’ I mean 2 to 4 engines per day. That’s super high volume for big rocket engines, but low volume by automotive standards,” Musk added. Long-term, he said that SpaceX targets to manufacture “Roughly 800 to 1000 [engines] per year.” –“That’s about what’s needed over ten years to create the fleet to build a self-sustaining city on Mars. City itself probably takes roughly 20 years, so hopefully it is built by ~2050,” Musk said.
Roughly 800 to 1000 per year. That’s about what’s needed over ten years to create the fleet to build a self-sustaining city on Mars. City itself probably takes roughly 20 years, so hopefully it is built by ~2050.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 10, 2021
UPDATE 07/11/2021: In response to this TESMANIAN article on Twitter, Musk shared that -"Final decision made earlier this week on booster engine count. Will be 33 at ~230 (half million lbs) sea-level thrust. All engines on booster are same, apart from deleting gimbal & thrust vector actuators for outer 20."
Final decision made earlier this week on booster engine count. Will be 33 at ~230 (half million lbs) sea-level thrust. All engines on booster are same, apart from deleting gimbal & thrust vector actuators for outer 20.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 11, 2021
Featured Image Source: SpaceX Elon Musk
About the Author
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.