SpaceX prepares to test its next generation rocket engine

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The competition heats up: SpaceX’s first Raptor rocket engine has now been built and has been shipped to the company’s test facility in Texas to begin testing.

The Raptor is SpaceX’s next generation of rocket engine. It may be as much as three times more powerful than the Merlin engines that power its Falcon 9 rocket and will also be used in the Falcon Heavy rocket that may fly in late 2016 or early 2017. The Raptor will power SpaceX’s next generation of rocket after the Falcon Heavy, the so-called Mars Colonial Transporter.

Although official details regarding the Raptor engine remain scarce, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has suggested the engine will have a thrust of about 500,000 pounds, roughly the same power as a space shuttle’s main engines. Whereas the shuttle was powered by three main engines and two booster rockets, however, it is believed the large rocket SpaceX uses to colonize Mars would likely be powered by a cluster of nine Raptor engines.

Like I said in my previous post, the rest of this decade should be very exciting in space, and that excitement will have be because of private enterprise and freedom, not NASA’s fake mission to Mars, with Orion.


  • Tom Billings

    Other than, ..”It may be as much as three times more powerful than the Merlin engines that power its Falcon 9 rocket and will also be used in the Falcon Heavy rocket that may fly in late 2016 or early 2017″, the article is pretty good. Elon has hinted that he wants to focus his team’s engineering talent on the Mars rocket, instead of building a new FH upper stage, much less an F9 upper stage, however. Too bad, IMHO.

    What we see in presented in Guadalajara will be enlightening.

  • fred k

    Actually, I predict that NASA’s #JourneyToMars will be accomplished by the stated goal of 2030ish … but the twist is that they will be a paid passenger on Elon’s MCT.

  • ken anthony

    Why does the media seem to indicate the BE-4 (2019) is in the lead?

  • Ken Anthony asked, “Why does the media seem to indicate the BE-4 (2019) is in the lead?”

    Because one ULA engineer said so (got fired for doing so). Also, ULA has publicly made it obvious that they prefer the BE-4, having signed deals with Blue Origin to get it built. Aerojet Rocketdyne’s engine is only in the competition because Congress wants it and has financed it. ULA has to consider it because of the power that Congress has.

  • NormD


    Could you clarify

    1. I thought the Raptor was much larger than the Merlin (,_Falcon_9_v1.1_and_SHLV_comparison.svg)

    2. I thought the Falcon Heavy was three Falcon 9s bolted together. As far as I know, the Falcon 9 is 9 Merlin engines, thus the 9. I assume a rocket based on the Raptor engine would not be a “9” or if it were a 9 it would be much larger than a Falcon and thus not a Falcon.

    3. I would think that SpaceX would test the Raptor in a single rocket rather than three rockets bolted together.

    4. If SpaceX is just starting to test Raptor, they cannot possibly be planning to use it in a Heavy in a few months.

    5. If the Raptor is much bigger than the Merlin why should anyone be surprised that it has more thrust?

    6. This is the first time I have heard the first launch of FH as being 2017. I had always heard late 2016. Of course, SpaceX slips dates all the time, but…

    This article leaves me very confused.

  • Edward

    You may have confused the SHLV (Super Heavy-lift Launch Vehicle) with the Falcon Heavy. It looks like the Raptor engines are not destined for the Falcon series of rocket but for the much, much larger SHLV. I suspect that we will hear more details when Musk gives us details of his proposed Mars missions in September.
    “Early plans for the MCT launch vehicle, made public in April 2014, consisted of one or three cores with a 10-meter (33 ft) diameter which is comparable to the Saturn V. At the time, the rocket was slated to use nine Raptor LOX/methane engines to power each core.”

    This Wikipedia article suggests that a Mars colony may need 10 cargo ships per person, as the environment is harsher and more barren than Earth (hard to compare a Mars colony to a North American colony in the 17th century, as air is free and agriculture easy on Earth). However, I suspect that robotics and necessary innovation will result in a rapid development of a self-sustaining colony on Mars.

  • PeterF

    I wonder what they are considering for names? Maybe the “Eagle”? Or if it is to be sea launched and recovered, it could be the “Osprey”.
    But since its unofficially the BFR for Big F-ing Rocket, maybe it should be “ROC” for Raptor Orbiter/Colonizer!

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