SpaceX is actively developing the Starship launch vehicle since 2019. Every spacecraft and rocket component has undergone testing and improvement throughout the years to build a reliable vehicle that could someday reach orbit and beyond. Last month, on April 20, SpaceX engineers had the opportunity to gather critical data on the Raptor engine and the stainless-steel rocket-ship when it performed the first fully-integrated test flight at its Starbase facility in Boca Chica Beach, Texas. Even though the vehicle did not reach orbit, the 4-minute flight of nearly 40 kilometers above the ground was enough for engineers to know what they must improve to reach orbit. During that first attempt to orbit, the Super Heavy rocket lifted off with the power of at least 30 out of 33 Raptor V2 engines.
Raptors are fueled by ‘Methalox’, a combination of cryogenic liquid methane and liquid oxygen. This Starship prototype was equipped with the second iteration of the engine known as Raptor V2 which SpaceX describes as having "More power, less parts,” making the engine's mass lighter compared to V1 (pictured above). V2 has less visible plumbing and wiring, both sea-level versions have the same nozzle exit diameter and similar dimensions, however, V1 has a mass of 2,000 kilograms (kg) and V2 1,600 kg. Raptor V1 generated around 185 tons of thrust and the current V2 generates around 230 tons of thrust. The company achieved increasing performance/thrust and reduced the amount of time to manufacture by adding fewer components which is important to someday be able to build a fleet of hundreds of Starships to build bases on the Moon and Mars.
This week, the third version of the Raptor engine (V3) reached a new thrust record. “Raptor V3 just achieved 350 bar chamber pressure (269 tons of thrust). Congrats to SpaceX propulsion team!” announced SpaceX founder Elon Musk via Twitter. “Starship Super Heavy Booster has 33 Raptors, so total thrust of 8877 tons or 19.5 million pounds,” he said on May 13. Starship is destined to be the world’s most powerful rocket in history!
A TESMANIAN journalist asked via Twitter –“I wonder if Raptor V3 looks different or similar to V2,” she wrote. To which Musk replied –“If we can delete & integrate enough secondary structure (small, fiddly bits), then we can locally protect [the] rest & delete engine heat shields,” he wrote. Deleting some components would decrease the engine's mass and make the engine more compact and faster to manufacture at scale compared to the previous versions.
Here is some info about Raptor V1 & V2. V3 is way more powerful!!! ❤️🔥https://t.co/3RNlF0bsw3— Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo (@JaneidyEve) May 13, 2023
If we can delete & integrate enough secondary structure (small, fiddly bits), then we can locally protect rest & delete engine heat shields— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 13, 2023
Regarding the Raptor V3’s increased power, let's compare it to Saturn V which is the rocket that propelled NASA Apollo astronauts to the lunar surface, it generated 7.6 million pounds of thrust. However, Saturn V is no longer operational; NASA developed a new rocket called ‘Space Launch System’ (SLS) which generates a maximum thrust of 8.8 million pounds. NASA says the operational rocket “exerted more power than any rocket ever” when it lifted off in November 2022 (pictured below). SpaceX’s Starship Super Heavy is expected to dethrone the SLS as soon as it reaches orbit with its capability to generate 19.5 million pounds at liftoff! SpaceX engineers are working to prepare upgraded vehicles to perform the next orbital flight test attempt this year. NASASpaceflight shared a video clip of the Raptor V3 engine undergoing testing at the McGregor, Texas, factory (linked below). “...To be frank, we did not expect the engine to survive a full duration run at that pressure. It is uncharted territory,” replied Musk under the video, “Raptor chamber wall might have the highest heat flux of anything ever made.”
Let's compare Starship Raptor V3’s increased power to Saturn V which is the rocket that propelled NASA Apollo astronauts to the lunar surface, it generated 7.6 million pounds of thrust. However, Saturn V is no longer operational; NASA developed a new rocket called ‘Space Launch… pic.twitter.com/RpVwr4yaVY— Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo (@JaneidyEve) May 14, 2023
As of November 2022, SpaceX completed manufacturing over 200 Raptor engines (and counting) at an average rate of one engine per day. The company manufactures and tests the engines at the McGregor factory. SpaceX officials recently said that they has more engines than they could fly at the moment. SpaceX aims for the cost-per-tonne of thrust of each Raptor to be under $1,000 USD, so a bit over $250,000 at the 260 tons of thrust that each Raptor V3 is capable of generating. Musk said recently that he expects to spend approximately $2 Billion on Starship's development this year.
Yeah. To be frank, we did not expect the engine to survive a full duration run at that pressure. It is uncharted territory.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 13, 2023
》 Author's note: My work is possible Thanks to everyone who reads Tesmanian.com and purchases products from the SHOP. Write your thoughts in the comment section below. If you have any story suggestions or feedback, feel free to Direct Message me on Twitter: Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo @JaneidyEve Read my most recent stories here: Recent News Stories 《
Featured Images Source: Raptor photo by Tesmanian.com / Data by SpaceX Elon Musk via Twitter
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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.