SpaceX has managed to reach another landmark. The Raptor rocket engine that may be used on a future Mars mission has recently reached the level of power output needed for Starship and Super Heavy. The engine completed its first firing test less than three days ago. Other prototype Raptor engines were tested before but this one was deemed to be flight ready.
The process of developing a rocket engine is quite complicated since we are looking at an engine that has the potential to generate an incredible force. The tests will usually start with a few bursts that will check the flow of the engine. The duration and power will be increased gradually until a suitable power level is reached and the engine can be cleared for flying.
The Raptor engine has been crafted for the Starship rocket, which was designed as a fully reusable launch system. The Starship will be used in order to transport a maximum number of 100 people to the Red Planet. In order to be useable the starship engine needs to output at least 170 metric tons of force according to Musk and this target has been reached. During the tests the team used warm propellant but it is thought that the transition to cryogenic propellant should increase the power of the engine by at least %10.
Raptor is the first methane-fueled engine built by SpaceX. Blue Origin, owned by Jeff Bezos, is working on their own methane-fueled engine. Known as BE-4 the engine will be used by the New Glenn rocket and the Vulcan rocket owned by the United Launch Alliance.
SpaceX is currently working on the engine at the central headquarters in Hawthorne California. The engines are then brought to McGregor Texas, where field tests take place. The same development method was used for the Merlin rocket engines that are employed in Falcon rockets.
A prototype Starship rocket is currently in development and a battery of tests should begin in the following months.