Raptor (rocket engine)
|Country of origin||United States|
|Application||second-stage and deep-space propulsion|
|Propellant||LOX / liquid methane|
|Thrust (vac.)||4,400 kilonewtons (1,000,000 lbf)|
Raptor is the first member of a family of methane-fueled rocket engines under development by SpaceX. It is specifically intended to power a higher performance upper stage for SpaceX launch vehicles. The engine will be powered by methane and liquid oxygen (LOX), rather than the RP-1 kerosene and LOX used in all previous Falcon 9 upper stages, which use a Merlin vacuum engine. Earlier concepts for Raptor would have used liquid hydrogen (LH2) fuel rather than methane.
The broader Raptor concept "is a highly reusable methane staged-combustion engine that will power the next generation of SpaceX launch vehicles designed for the exploration and colonization of Mars."
Raptor was first discussed by SpaceX's Max Vozoff at the AIAA Commercial Crew/Cargo symposium in 2009. As of April 2011[update], SpaceX had a small number of staff working on the Raptor upper stage engine, then still a LH2/LOX concept, at a low level of priority. Further mention of the development program occurred in 2011.
In November 2012, CEO Elon Musk announced a new direction for the propulsion division of SpaceX: developing methane-fueled rocket engines. He further indicated that the engine concept that had been codenamed Raptor would now become a methane-based design.
When first mentioned by SpaceX in 2009, the term "Raptor" was applied exclusively to an upper stage engine concept, and 2012 pronouncements indicate that it still is a concept for an upper stage engine. However, public information released in November 2012 indicates that SpaceX may have a family of Raptor-designated rocket engines in mind; this was confirmed by SpaceX in October 2013.
In October 2013, SpaceX announced that they would be performing methane engine tests of the Raptor engine at the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Mississippi, and that SpaceX would add equipment to the existing test stand infrastructure in order to support liquid methane engine testing. October 2013 was also the first time SpaceX had disclosed the design thrust of the Raptor engine: 2.94 meganewtons (661,000 lbf).
In February 2014, Tom Mueller, the head of rocket engine development at SpaceX, revealed in a speech that Raptor was being designed for use on a vehicle where nine engines would "put over 100 tons of cargo up to Mars," and that the rocket would be more powerful that previously released, with over 1,000,000 lbf (4,400 kN) of thrust.
The Raptor engine will be powered by liquid methane and liquid oxygen using a more efficient staged combustion cycle, a departure from the 'open cycle' gas generator system and lox/kerosene propellants that current Merlin engines use. The Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSME) also used a staged combustion process, as do many Russian rocket engines.
Raptor is being designed to produce more than 661,000 lbf (2,940 kN) thrust in vacuum, the space environment for which the Raptor second-stage engine was designed. More recently, Tom Mueller, the head of rocket engine development at SpaceX, was quoted as saying Raptor would have over 1,000,000 lbf (4,400 kN) of thrust.
Comparison to other engine designs
|Engine name||Vacuum Thrust
|Vacuum Specific impulse
|SpaceX Raptor (targeted)||4,400 (1,000,000)||Methane/LOX staged combustion|
|SpaceX Merlin 1D||801 (180,000)||311 (projected, as of September 2012[update])||RP-1/LOX gas generator|
|SpaceX Merlin 1C||610 (140,000)||304||RP-1/LOX gas generator|
|Space Shuttle Main Engine||2,280 (510,000)||453||LH/LOX staged combustion|
|Saturn V Rocketdyne F-1||7,740 (1,740,000)||304||RP-1/LOX gas generator|
Initial testing of Raptor methane engine components will be done at the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Mississippi, where SpaceX will add equipment to the existing infrastructure in order to support liquid methane engine testing. Initial testing at Stennis will be limited to components of the Raptor engine, since the 100,000 lbf (440 kN) test stands at the E-2 complex at Stennis are not large enough to test the full Raptor engine. The Raptor engine is designed to generate more than 661,000 lbf (2,940 kN) vacuum thrust.
Raptor engine component testing is expected to commence in early 2014, at the E-2 test complex which SpaceX will modify to support methane engine tests. The modifications will become part of the Stennis test infrastructure and will be available to other users of the test facility after the SpaceX facility lease is completed. SpaceX will need to construct a new engine test stand or reconstruct an existing one to handle the larger thrusts of the planned Raptor engine.
- Advanced Common Evolved Stage
- Falcon Heavy
- Falcon series of LOX/RP-1 launch vehicles from SpaceX
- SpaceX rocket engine family
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- Todd, David (2012-11-20). "Musk goes for methane-burning reusable rockets as step to colonise Mars". FlightGlobal Hyperbola. Retrieved 2012-11-22. ""We are going to do methane." Musk announced as he described his future plans for reusable launch vehicles including those designed to take astronauts to Mars within 15 years, "The energy cost of methane is the lowest and it has a slight Isp (Specific Impulse) advantage over Kerosene," said Musk adding, "And it does not have the pain in the ass factor that hydrogen has"."
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- Todd, David (2012-11-22). "SpaceX’s Mars rocket to be methane-fuelled". Flightglobal. Retrieved 2012-12-05. "Musk said Lox and methane would be SpaceX’s propellants of choice on a mission to Mars, which has long been his stated goal. SpaceX’s initial work will be to build a Lox/methane rocket for a future upper stage, codenamed Raptor. The design of this engine would be a departure from the “open cycle” gas generator system that the current Merlin 1 engine series uses. Instead, the new rocket engine would use a much more efficient “staged combustion” cycle that many Russian rocket engines use."
- Todd, David (2012-11-20). "Musk goes for methane-burning reusable rockets as step to colonise Mars". FlightGlobal Hyperbola. Retrieved 2012-11-22. "The new Raptor upper stage engine is likely to be only the first engine in a series of lox/methane engines."
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