Elon Musk Unveils SpaceX's 1st Rocket Engine Test for Starship Rocket

Elon Musk with rocket engine

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk checks out the nozzle of a full-scale Raptor rocket engine in advance of its first test firing

The company has test-fired the flight version of its new Raptor rocket engine for the first time, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk announced yesterday (Feb. 3).

SpaceX has a big year ahead of it as it continues to fulfill rocket launch contracts for clients eager to send stuff into space, but it's the company's Starship project that has gotten the most attention from science fans.

The Raptor let out a thunderous roar as it fired up. Musk, who posted about the event on Twitter, congratulated his team with a message about the successful test.

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Musk tweeted videos of the tests today from Space X's Texas base. There'd eventually be 31 Raptors powering the reusable Super Heavy, and seven Raptors on the Starship.

A prototype version of the Starship, dubbed the Starship Hopper, is under construction at another SpaceX facility on South Texas' Gulf Coast.

The Raptor will represent a technological break for SpaceX engines.

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This engine uses methox torch igniters, which are in turn started by "gaseous CH4/O2 & heavy duty spark plugs", so said Musk.

The first launches of the full-scale Starship-Super Heavy duo could follow in relatively short order. Before that can happen, SpaceX needs to make sure its engines are working as intended, and a test firing conducted on Sunday suggests that all is well.

SpaceX test-fired February 3 the first flight version of the Raptor engine the company has developed for its next-generation launch system. It will be powered by liquid oxygen (known in the space business as LOX) and cryogenic liquid methane, rather than the LOX/kerosene mix other SpaceX engines have used. And the flight Raptor will boast about twice the thrust of the Merlin version that powers the Falcon 9.

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