SpaceX founder Chief Engineer Elon Musk says the journey to Mars will require a fleet of 1,000 Starships to make life multiplanetary. "I hope there is a self-sustaining city on Mars in 20 years!" he said over the Summer. Musk says that the Starship and Super Heavy rocket duo represents the "Holy Grail" of rocket technology because a fully-reusable rocket has never been developed. Full reusability is necessary in order to launch megatons of cargo to build a self-sustaining city on the Red Planet.
For this to become a reality within our lifetime, SpaceX is working hard to increase the pace of innovation and iteration by increasing production of spaceship components to rapidly test and improve. On November 4, SpaceX announced it achieved manufacturing the 200th Raptor V2 engine as it prepares for Starship's debut orbital flight, which could happen before this year ends. The engines are manufactured at SpaceX’s factory and testing facility at McGregor, Texas. Each Starship is equipped with 6 methane-fueled Raptor V2 (Version 2) engines, three have a much larger nozzle optimized for the vacuum of space. Super Heavy is equipped with 33 Raptors, capable of producing over 12 million pounds of thrust. Each rocket engine produces over half a million pounds (around 230 tons) of force. The methane-fueled spacecraft will be capable of launching at least 100 tons of cargo to orbit, or 100 passengers on a long-duration voyage to Mars.
"SpaceX has moved very quickly on development," said NASA Artemis Campaign Development Administrator Mark Kirasich during a NASA Advisory Council meeting on October 31st. "We've seen them [SpaceX] manufacture what was called Raptor 1.0. They have since upgraded to Raptor 2.0 [V2] that first of all increases performance and thrust and secondly reduces the amount of parts, reducing the amount of time to manufacture and test," he shared, "They [SpaceX] build these things very fast. Their goal was seven engines a week, and they hit that about a quarter ago. So they are now building seven engines a week." Some of the engines are expected be transported from the McGregor factory to Boca Chica Village, Texas, where Starship prototypes are being manufactured and tested. This week, engineers test ignited 14 Raptor V2 engines simultaneously for the first time. Read more: SpaceX performs a full-duration static-fire test of 14 Super Heavy rocket engines for the first time [VIDEO]
Regarding production volume, Musk has previously said that the company's goal is to eventually manufacture "2 to 4 engines per day. That’s super high volume for big rocket engines, but low volume by automotive standards,” he said. Long-term, SpaceX targets to manufacture “roughly 800 to 1,000 [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 in 2021. Before a voyage to Mars, SpaceX will return NASA astronauts to the Moon on a lunar-optimized Starship Human Landing System (HLS) as part of the Artemis program. If all goes according to plan, SpaceX could land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2025 then launch to Mars soon after.
If 200 Falcon second stage vehicles and Merlin Vacuum engines weren’t enough for you, the Raptor team recently completed the 200th Raptor 2 engine! pic.twitter.com/r6tsumKMik— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 4, 2022
Featured Images Source: SpaceX