Raptor (rocket engine family)
First test firing of a Raptor development engine on 25 September 2016 in McGregor, Texas.
|Country of origin||United States|
|Propellant||Liquid oxygen / liquid methane|
|Cycle||Full-flow staged combustion|
|Pumps||2 × multi-stage|
|Thrust||2,400 kN (550,000 lbf)|
|Thrust-to-weight ratio||>170 (goal) |
|Chamber pressure||300 bar (30 MPa; 4,400 psi), |
|Isp (vac.)||380 s (3,700 m/s) (goal)|
|Isp (SL)||330 s (3,200 m/s)|
|Length||3.1 m (10 ft)|
|Diameter||1.3 m (4 ft 3 in)|
|Dry weight||1,500 kg (3,300 lb) (goal)|
|Starship, Super Heavy|
Raptor is a full-flow, staged combustion, methane-fueled rocket engine manufactured by SpaceX. The engine is powered by cryogenic liquid methane and liquid oxygen (LOX), rather than the RP-1 kerosene and LOX used in SpaceX's prior Merlin and Kestrel rocket engine families. The earliest concepts for Raptor considered liquid hydrogen (LH
2) as fuel rather than methane. The Raptor engine has about two times the thrust of the Merlin 1D engine that powers the current Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
The Raptor engine is a highly reusable methalox staged-combustion engine that will power the next generation of SpaceX launch vehicles designed to replace all existing SpaceX vehicles, including the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles and the Dragon spacecraft. Raptor engines are expected to be used in various applications including existing Earth-orbit satellite delivery market, the exploration and colonization of Mars
The Raptor engine is powered by subcooled liquid methane and subcooled liquid oxygen using a more efficient staged combustion cycle, a departure from the simpler 'open cycle' gas generator system and lox/kerosene propellants that current Merlin engines use. The Space Shuttle Main Engines, with hydrolox propellant) also used a staged combustion process, as do several Russian rocket engines including the RD-180 and the 25.74 MPa (3,733 psi) chamber pressure RD-191. The stated design size for the Raptor engine varied widely during 2012–2017 as detailed design continued, from a high target of 8,200 kN (1,800,000 lbf) of vacuum thrust to a more recent, much lower target of 1,900 kN (430,000 lbf). In its 2017 iteration, the operational engine is expected to have a vacuum Isp of 375 s (3,680 m/s) and a sea-level Isp of 300 s (2,900 m/s).
The Raptor engine is designed for the use of deep cryogenic methalox propellants—fluids cooled to near their freezing points, rather than nearer their boiling points which is more typical for cryogenic rocket engines. The use of subcooled propellants increases propellant density to allow more propellant mass in tanks; the engine performance is also improved with sub cooled propellants. Specific impulse is increased, and the risk of cavitation at inputs to the turbopumps is reduced due to the higher mass flow rate per unit power generated. Engine ignition for all Raptor engines, both on the pad and in the air, will be by spark ignition, which will eliminate the pyrophoric mixture of triethylaluminum-triethylborane (TEA-TEB) used for engine ignition on the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.
Raptor has been claimed to be able to deliver "long life ... and more benign turbine environments". Specifically, Raptor utilizes a full-flow staged combustion cycle, where 100 percent of the oxidizer—with a low-fuel ratio—will power the oxygen turbine pump, and 100 percent of the fuel—with a low-oxygen ratio—will power the methane turbine pump. Both streams—oxidizer and fuel—will be mixed completely in the gas phase before they enter the combustion chamber. Prior to 2014, only two full-flow staged combustion rocket engines had ever progressed sufficiently to be tested on test stands: the Soviet RD-270 project in the 1960s and the Aerojet Rocketdyne Integrated Powerhead Demonstrator in the mid-2000s.
Additional characteristics of the full-flow design, projected to further increase performance or reliability include:
- eliminating the fuel-oxidizer turbine interseal, which is a potential point of failure in more traditional engine designs
- lower pressures are required through the pumping system, increasing life span and further reducing risk of catastrophic failure
- ability to increase the combustion chamber pressure, thereby either increasing overall performance, or "by using cooler gases, providing the same performance as a standard staged combustion engine but with much less stress on materials, thus significantly reducing material fatigue or [engine] weight".
SpaceX aims at a lifetime of 1000 flights for Raptor.
The turbopump and many of the critical parts of the injectors for the initial engine development testing were, as of 2015, manufactured by using 3D printing, which increases the speed of development and iterative testing. Forty percent (by mass) of the 2016 1 MN (220,000 lbf) test stand engine was manufactured by 3D printing.
The Raptor engine uses a large number of coaxial swirl injectors to admit propellants to the combustion chamber, rather than pintle injectors used on the previous Merlin rocket engines that SpaceX mass-produced for its Falcon family of launch vehicles. Raptor uses "dual redundant torch igniters."
The engine development from 2009 to 2015 was funded exclusively through private investment by SpaceX, and not as a result of any funding from the US government. In January 2016, SpaceX did agree with the US Air Force to take US$33.6 million in defense department funding in order to develop a particular Raptor model: a prototype of a new upper-stage variant of the Raptor engine designed for potential use as an upper stage on Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, with SpaceX agreeing to fund at least US$67.3 million on the same upper-stage development project, on a minimum 2:1 private-to-government funding basis.
An advanced rocket engine design project named Raptor—then a hydrolox engine—was first publicly discussed by SpaceX's Max Vozoff at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics 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 LH
2/LOX concept, at a low level of priority. Further mention of the development program occurred in 2011. In March 2012, news accounts asserted that the Raptor upper-stage engine development program was underway, but that details were not being publicly released.
In October 2012, SpaceX publicly announced concept work on a rocket engine that would be "several times as powerful as the Merlin 1 series of engines, and won't use Merlin's RP-1 fuel", but declined to specify which fuel would be used. They indicated that details on a new SpaceX rocket would be forthcoming in "one to three years" and that the large engine was intended for the next-generation launch vehicle using multiple of these large engines, that would be expected to launch payload masses of the order of 150 to 200 tonnes (150,000 to 200,000 kg; 330,000 to 440,000 lb) to low Earth orbit, exceeding the payload mass capability of the NASA Space Launch System.
Methane engine announcement and component development
In November 2012, Musk announced a new direction for the propulsion division of SpaceX: developing methane-fueled rocket engines. He further indicated that the engine concept, codenamed Raptor, would now become a methane-based design, and that methane would be the fuel of choice for SpaceX's plans for Mars colonization.
Because of the presence of water underground and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Mars, methane, a simple hydrocarbon, can easily be synthesized on Mars using the Sabatier reaction. In-situ resource production on Mars has been examined by NASA and found to be viable for oxygen, water, and methane production. According to a study published by researchers from the Colorado School of Mines, in-situ resource utilization such as methane from Mars makes space missions more feasible technically and economically and enables reusability.
When first mentioned by SpaceX in 2009, the term "Raptor" was applied exclusively to an upper-stage engine concept—and 2012 pronouncements indicated that it was then still a concept for an upper stage engine—but in early 2014 SpaceX confirmed that Raptor would be used both on a new second stage, as well as for the large (then, nominally a 10-meter-diameter) core of the then-named Mars Colonial Transporter (subsequently, in 2016, on both stages of the even larger ITS launch vehicle concept and then, in 2017 and 2018, on the currently-in-development 9-meter diameter BFR).
The earliest public hints that a staged-combustion methane engine was under consideration at SpaceX were given in May 2011 when SpaceX asked if the Air Force was interested in a methane-fueled engine as an option to compete with the mainline kerosene-fueled engine that had been requested in the USAF Reusable Booster System High Thrust Main Engine solicitation.
Public information released in November 2012 indicated that SpaceX might have a family of Raptor-designated rocket engines in mind; this was confirmed by SpaceX in October 2013. However, in March 2014 SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell clarified that the focus of the new engine development program is exclusively on the full-size Raptor engine; smaller subscale methalox engines were not planned on the development path to the very large Raptor engine.
In October 2013, SpaceX announced that they would be performing methane engine tests of Raptor engine components at the John C. 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 and hot gaseous methane engine component testing. In April 2014, SpaceX completed the requisite upgrades and maintenance to the Stennis test stand to prepare for testing of Raptor components, and the engine component testing program began in earnest, focusing on the development of robust startup and shutdown procedures, something that is typically quite difficult to do for full-flow staged combustion cycle engines. Component testing at Stennis also allowed hardware characterization and verification of proprietary analytical software models that SpaceX developed to push the technology on this engine cycle that had little prior development work in the West.
October 2013 was the first time SpaceX disclosed a nominal design thrust of the Raptor engine—2,900 kN (661,000 lbf)—although early in 2014 they announced a Raptor engine with greater thrust, and in 2015, one with lower thrust that might better optimize thrust-to-weight.
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 than previously released publicly, producing greater than 4,400 kN (1,000,000 lbf). A June 2014 talk by Mueller provided more specific engine performance target specifications indicating 6,900 kN (1,600,000 lbf) of sea-level thrust, 8,200 kN (1,800,000 lbf) of vacuum thrust, and a specific impulse (Isp) of 380 s (3,700 m/s) for a vacuum version. Earlier information had estimated the design Isp under vacuum conditions as only 363 s (3,560 m/s). Jeff Thornburg, who led development of the Raptor engine at SpaceX 2011–2015, noted that methane rocket engines have higher performance than kerosene/RP-1 and lower than hydrogen, with significantly fewer problems for long-term, multi-start engine designs than kerosene—methane is cleaner burning—and significantly lower cost than hydrogen, coupled with the ability to "live off the land" and produce methane directly from extraterrestrial sources.
SpaceX successfully began development testing of injectors in 2014 and completed a full-power test of a full-scale oxygen preburner in 2015. 76 hot fire tests of the preburner, totaling some 400 seconds of test time, were executed from April–August 2015. SpaceX completed its planned testing at NASA Stennis in 2014 and 2015.
In January 2015, Elon Musk stated that the thrust they were currently targeting was around 230 tonnes-force (2,300 kN; 510,000 lbf), much lower than older statements mentioned. This brought into question much of the speculation surrounding a 9-engine booster, as he stated "there will be a lot of [engines]". By August 2015, an Elon Musk statement surfaced that indicated the oxidizer to fuel ratio of the Mars-bound engine would be approximately 3.8 to 1.
In January 2016, the US Air Force awarded a US$33.6 million development contract to SpaceX to develop a prototype version of its methane-fueled reusable Raptor engine for use on the upper stage of the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles, which required double-matching funding by SpaceX of at least US$67.3 million. Work under the contract is expected to be completed in 2018, with engine performance testing to be done at NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and Los Angeles Air Force Base, California.[needs update]
Engine development and testing
Initial development testing of Raptor methane engine components was done at the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Mississippi, where SpaceX added equipment to the existing infrastructure in order to support liquid methane engine testing. Initial testing was limited to components of the Raptor engine, since the 440 kN (100,000 lbf) test stands at the E-2 complex at Stennis were not large enough to test the full Raptor engine. The development Raptor engine discussed in the October 2013 time frame relative to Stennis testing was designed to generate more than 2,900 kN (661,000 lbf) vacuum thrust. A revised, higher-thrust, specification was discussed by the company in February 2014, but it was unclear whether that higher thrust was something that would be achieved with the initial development engines. Raptor engine component testing began in May 2014 at the E-2 test complex which SpaceX modified to support methane engine tests. The first items tested were single Raptor injector elements, various designs of high-volume gas injectors. The modifications to the test stands made by SpaceX are now a part of the Stennis test infrastructure and are available to other users of the test facility after the SpaceX facility lease was completed. SpaceX successfully completed a "round of main injector testing in late 2014" and a "full-power test of the oxygen preburner component" for Raptor by June 2015. Tests continued at least into September 2015.
By August 2016, SpaceX confirmed that a Raptor engine had been shipped to the testing site in McGregor for development tests, and the 1,000 kN (220,000 lbf) development Raptor did an initial 9-second firing test on 26 September 2016, the day before Musk's talk at the International Aeronautical Congress. The 2016 development engine had "an expansion ratio of just 150, the maximum possible within Earth’s atmosphere" to prevent flow separation problems.
By August 2016, the first integrated Raptor rocket engine, manufactured at the SpaceX Hawthorne facility in California, shipped to the McGregor rocket engine test facility in Texas for development testing. The engine had 1 MN (220,000 lbf) thrust, which makes it approximately one-third the size of the full-scale Raptor engine planned for flight tests in 2019/2020 timeframe. It is the first full-flow staged-combustion methalox engine ever to reach a test stand.
On 26 September 2016, Elon Musk tweeted two images of the first test firing of an integrated Raptor in SpaceX's McGregor test complex. On the same day Musk revealed that their target performance for Raptor was a vacuum specific impulse of 382 s (3,750 m/s), with a thrust of 3 MN (670,000 lbf), a chamber pressure of 300 bar (30 MPa; 4,400 psi), and an expansion ratio of 150 for an altitude optimized version. When asked if the nozzle diameter for such version was 14 ft (4.3 m), he stated that it was pretty close to that dimension. He also disclosed that it used multi-stage turbopumps. On the 27th he clarified that 150 expansion ratio was for the development version, that the production vacuum version would have an expansion ratio of 200. Substantial additional technical details of the ITS propulsion were summarized in a technical article on the Raptor engine published the next week.
By September 2017, the development Raptor engine—with 200 bars (20 MPa; 2,900 psi) chamber pressure—had undergone 1200 seconds of test fire testing in ground-test stands across 42 main engine tests, with the longest test being 100 seconds (which is limited by the capacity of the ground-test propellant tanks). As of September 2017[update], the first version of the flight engine is intended to operate at a chamber pressure of 250 bars (25 MPa; 3,600 psi), with the intent to raise it to 300 bars (30 MPa; 4,400 psi) at a later time.
By September 2017, the 200 bars (20 MPa; 2,900 psi) sub-scale test engine, with a thrust of 1 meganewton (220,000 lbf) and "a new alloy to help its oxygen-rich turbopump resist oxidization, ... had completed 1200 seconds of firings across 42 tests."
While plans for Raptor flight testing have consistently been on the new-generation fiber-composite-material construction flight vehicles since 2016, the specific vehicle was not clarified until October 2017, when it was indicated that initial suborbital test flights would occur with a BFR spaceship. In November 2016, the first flight tests of the Raptor engine were projected to be on the very large 12-meter (39 ft)-diameter ITS launch vehicle, no earlier than the early 2020s. By July 2017, the plan had been modified to do flight testing on a much smaller launch vehicle and spacecraft, and the new system architecture had "evolved quite a bit" since the very large ITS launch vehicle design concept from 2016. A key driver of the 2017 architecture was to make the new system useful for substantial Earth-orbit and Cislunar launches so that the new system might pay for itself, in part, through economic spaceflight activities in the near-Earth space zone.
Elon Musk announced in September 2017 that the initial flight platform for any Raptor engine would be some part of the BFR launch vehicle. BFR is a 9 m (30 ft)-diameter launch vehicle. In October 2017, Musk clarified that "[initial flight testing will be with] a full-scale 9-meter-diameter ship doing short hops of a few hundred kilometers altitude and lateral distance ... [projected to be] fairly easy on the vehicle, as no heat shield is needed, we can have a large amount of reserve propellant and don’t need the high area ratio, deep-space Raptor engines."
Notably, Musk also announced that the new Raptor-powered BFR launch vehicle was planned to entirely replace both Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles as well as the Dragon spacecraft in the existing operational SpaceX fleet in the early 2020s, initially aiming at the Earth-orbit market, but SpaceX is explicitly designing in substantial capability to the spacecraft vehicles to support long-duration spaceflight in the cislunar and Mars mission environment as well. SpaceX intends this approach to bring significant cost savings which will help the company justify the development expense of designing and building the new launch vehicle design. In addition to orbital spaceflight missions, BFR is being considered for the point-to-point Earth transportation market, with ~30–60-minute flights to nearly anywhere on the planet.
On 3 February 2019, SpaceX performed the first test of a flight version engine. The test lasted two seconds with the engine operating at 60 percent of rated thrust at a chamber pressure of 170 bars (17,000 kPa). Just four days later, the test engine achieved the power levels needed for use in Super Heavy and Starship. The engine reached 172 tonnes-force (1,690 kN; 380,000 lbf) thrust with a chamber pressure of 257 bars (25.7 MPa). The test was conducted using warm propellant, with expectations of a 10% to 20% increase in performance when switching to deep cryogenic temperatures for the propellant. On 10 February 2019, Musk announced on Twitter that the flight version engine had attained the chamber combustion pressure of 268.9 bars (26.89 MPa) on a test stand.
By March, serial number 2 (SN2) of the flight version Raptor engine had been delivered to the SpaceX South Texas launch site east of Brownsville, Texas for system integration testing on the Starship flight test rocket, the first test article of Starship, approximately one year ahead of schedule. SN2 was used for two tethered integration tests of the flight test "hopper" in early April. Serial numbers 3, 4, 5 and 6 had all made it to the test stand by early July, but the first three had issues of various sorts and SpaceX did not try any flight tests of the Starhopper test vehicle. SN6 was still under test on the ground test stand as of 8 July 2019.
The first flight test of a Raptor engine occurred on 25 July 2019 at the SpaceX South Texas Launch Site. Unusually, for initial flight tests of orbital-class rocket engines, this was not a full-duration burn but just a 22-second test. SpaceX is developing their next-generation rocket to be reusable from the beginning, just like an aircraft, and thus needs to start with narrow flight test objectives, while still aiming to land the rocket successfully to be used subsequently in further tests to expand the flight envelope.
Another flight test of a Raptor engine (probably SN6) occurred on 27 August 2019 from Boca Chica, Texas, test facility. The starhopper test vehicle reached an estimated altitude of 150m (FAA approved). A side step and a perfect landing on a nearby landing pad terminated the roughly 1 minute flight. 
IAC 2016 proposed designs
At the IAC meetings September 2016, Musk mentioned several Raptor engine designs that could be used on the ITS launch vehicle by late in the decade. In addition, a much smaller subscale engine had been built for test and validation of the new full-flow staged-combustion cycle engine. At that time, this first "subscale" Raptor development engine had been tested on a ground test stand for only one brief firing.
- "Raptor subscale development engine"
- In order to eliminate flow separation problems while being tested in Earth's atmosphere, the test nozzle expansion ratio was limited to only 150. The engine began testing in September 2016 on a ground test stand. Sources differ on the performance of this engine. In reporting during the two weeks following the Musk reveal on 27 September, NASASpaceFlight.com indicated that the development engine is only one-third the size of any of the three larger engine designs planned for the 2016-design flight vehicles, approximately 1,000 kN (220,000 lbf) thrust.
- Raptor 2016 with expansion ratio 40
- With an expansion ratio 40 nozzle, 42 of these engines were planned to power the 2016 high-level design of the ITS booster stage. 3,050 kN (690,000 lbf) of thrust at sea-level, and 3,285 kN (738,000 lbf) in vacuum. In addition, three gimbaled short-nozzle engines were to be used for maneuvering the 2016-design ITS launch vehicle second-stages; and these engines were to be used for retropropulsive landings on Mars (with mean atmospheric pressure on the Martian surface 600 Pa (0.0060 bar; 0.087 psi),), as well as, potentially, other Solar System objects.
- Raptor 2016 with expansion ratio 200
- Like the SpaceX Merlin engine, a vacuum version of the Raptor rocket engine design was shown which would target a specific impulse of 382s, using a larger nozzle giving an expansion ratio of 200. Six of these non-gimbaled engines were planned to provide primary propulsion for the 2016 designs of the Interplanetary Spaceship and the Earth-orbit ITS tanker. As designed, both of those vehicles were to play a short-term role as second stages on launches to Earth orbit, as well as provide high-Isp efficiency on transfer from geocentric to heliocentric orbit for transport to beyond-Earth-orbit celestial bodies. 3,500 kN (790,000 lbf) thrust at vacuum, the only conditions under which the six ER200 engines were expected to be fired.
At the IAC meetings of September 2017, Elon Musk announced that a smaller Raptor engine—with slightly over half as much thrust as the 2016 proposed designs—would be used on the BFR rocket than had been used on the ITS launch vehicle design unveiled a year earlier. Additionally, fewer engines would be used on each stage. BFR would have 31 Raptors on the first stage and 6 on the second stage, whereas the ITS launch vehicle design had 42 larger Raptor engines on the first stage and 9 of that same large size on the second stage. The engine design remains full-flow staged combustion cycle design using subcooled liquid-methane/liquid-oxygen propellant, just like the larger 2016 engine design. Version 1 of the flight engine is designed to operate at 250 bars (25,000 kPa; 3,600 psi) chamber pressure; but SpaceX expects to increase this to 300 bar (30,000 kPa; 4,400 psi) in later iterations. The flight engine is designed for extreme reliability, aiming to support the airline-level of safety required by the point-to-point Earth transportation market.
- The sea-level model Raptor engine design, with a nozzle exit diameter of 1.3 m (4.3 ft), is expected to have 1,700 kN (380,000 lbf) thrust at sea-level with an Isp of 330 s (3,200 m/s) increasing to an Isp of 356 s (3,490 m/s) in vacuum.
- The vacuum model Raptor, with a nozzle exit diameter of 2.4 m (7.9 ft), is expected to exert 1,900 kN (430,000 lbf) force with an Isp of 375 s (3,680 m/s).
In the BFR update given in September 2018, Musk showed video of a 71-second burn of a Raptor engine, and stated that "this is the Raptor engine that will power BFR, both the ship and the booster; it's the same engine. ... approximately a 200 short tons-force (1,800 kN; 400,000 lbf) engine aiming for roughly 300 bars (30,000 kPa; 4,400 psi) chamber pressure. ... If you had it at a high expansion ratio, has the potential to have a specific impulse of 380 s (3,700 m/s)." The update also included a redesigned Starship with seven sea-level Raptor engines instead of the three sea-level and four vacuum on the previous design.
Later versions will be split into a sea-level design and a vacuum-optimized design again.
Comparison to other engines
|Blue Origin BE-4
|New Glenn, Vulcan||2,400 (550,000)||CH
4 / LOX
|Staged combustion, oxidizer-rich|
|Energomash RD-170/171M||Energia, Zenit, Soyuz-5||7,904 (1,777,000)||337.2 s (3,307 m/s)||79.57||RP-1 / LOX||Staged combustion, oxidizer-rich|
|Energomash RD-180||Atlas III, Atlas V||4,152 (933,000)||338 s (3,310 m/s)||78.44|
|Energomash RD-191/181||Angara, Antares||2,090 (470,000)||337.5 s (3,310 m/s)||89|
|Energomash RD-275M||Proton-M||1,832 (412,000)||315.8 s (3,097 m/s)||174.5||N|
4 / UDMH
|Kuznetsov NK-33||N1, Soyuz-2-1v||1,638 (368,000)||331 s (3,250 m/s)||136.66||RP-1 / LOX||Staged combustion, oxidizer-rich|
|Rocketdyne F-1||Saturn V||7,740 (1,740,000)||304 s (2,980 m/s)||83||RP-1 / LOX||Gas generator|
|Rocketdyne RS-25||Space Shuttle, SLS||2,280 (510,000)||453 s (4,440 m/s)||73||LH2 / LOX||Staged combustion, fuel-rich|
|SpaceX Merlin 1D sea-level||Falcon booster stage||914 (205,000)||311 s (3,050 m/s)||176||RP-1 / LOX
|SpaceX Merlin 1D vacuum||Falcon upper stage||934 (210,000)||348 s (3,410 m/s)||180|
|SpaceX Raptor||Starship (both stages)||1,687–2,025
|≥ 170 (goal)||CH
4 / LOX
|Full-flow staged combustion|
|SpaceX Raptor sea-level (future)||Starship||2,452 (551,000)||~350 s (3,400 m/s)|
|SpaceX Raptor vacuum (future)||Starship||~380 s (3,700 m/s)|
As of September 2016, the Raptor engine was slated to be used in three spaceflight vehicles making up the two launch stages of an ITS launch vehicle stack. The first stage is always an Interplanetary booster while the second stage may be either an Interplanetary Spaceship (for beyond-Earth-orbit missions) or an ITS tanker (for on-orbit propellant transfer operations nearer to Earth).
The SpaceX 2016-design of the Interplanetary booster was announced with 42 sea-level optimized Raptors in the first stage of the ITS launch vehicle with a total of 128 MN (29,000,000 lbf) of thrust. The SpaceX Interplanetary Spaceship—which made up the second stage of the ITS launch vehicle on Earth launches was also an interplanetary spacecraft carrying cargo and passengers to beyond-Earth-orbit destinations after on-orbit refueling—was slated in the 2016 design to use six vacuum-optimized Raptors for primary propulsion plus three Raptors with sea-level nozzles for maneuvering.
The SpaceX 2017-design is a much smaller launch vehicle, 9 meters in diameter rather than 12 meters for the ITS launch vehicle, and is known as Starship. The Starship first stage was originally planned to have 31 sea-level optimized Raptors with a total of 48 MN (11,000,000 lbf) of thrust. The Starship will use three vacuum-optimized Raptors for primary propulsion plus three sea-level Raptors for maneuvering. SpaceX will build the flight-article Starship vehicles at the SpaceX South Texas build site.
- BE-4 - comparable methane-fuel engine from Blue Origin
- RD-191 - modern Russian kerosene-fuel engine of comparable size
- Merlin (rocket engine) - current kerosene-fueled rocket engine made by SpaceX
- Rocket engines of SpaceX - overview of all rocket engines made by SpaceX
- Comparison of orbital rocket engines - overview of known rocket engines
- How (and Why) SpaceX Will Colonize Mars, accessed 19 August 2015. Musk: "The critical elements of the solution are rocket reusability and low cost propellant (CH4 and O2 at an O/F ratio of ~3.8). And, of course, making the return propellant on Mars, which has a handy CO2 atmosphere and lots of H2O frozen in the soil."
- "Raptor Engine". SpaceX.com. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
- Elon Musk on Twitter: Max thrust version of Raptor should achieve true T/W > 170. Target is 1.5 ton engine with >260 t-F. Max Isp version should achieve ~380 sec, but T/W probably <120 due to big nozzle. These are just guesses for now.
- Musk, Elon (17 September 2018). "First Lunar BFR Mission". YouTube. Event occurs at 45:30.
And this is the Raptor engine that will power BFR both the ship and the booster, it’s the same engine. And this is approximately a 200-ton thrust engine that’s aiming for roughly a 300-bar or 300-atmosphere chamber pressure. And if you have it at a high expansion ratio it has the potential to have a specific impulse of 380.
- Musk, Elon (29 September 2017). "Making Life Multiplanetary". youtube.com. SpaceX. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
- Markusic, Tom (28 July 2010). SpaceX Propulsion (PDF). 46th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference. pp. 12–15. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
- Grush, Loren (28 September 2017). "What to expect from Elon Musk's Mars colonization update this week". The Verge.
- Chris Gebhardt (29 September 2017). "The Moon, Mars, & around the Earth – Musk updates BFR architecture, plans". NASASpaceflight.com. Archived from the original on 1 October 2017. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
In a move that would have seemed crazy a few years ago, Mr. Musk stated that the goal of BFR is to make the Falcon 9 and the Falcon Heavy rockets and their crew/uncrewed Dragon spacecrafts redundant, thereby allowing the company to shift all resources and funding allocations from those vehicles to BFR. Making the Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, and Dragon redundant would also allow BFR to perform the same Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Beyond LEO satellite deployment missions as Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy – just on a more economical scale as multiple satellites would be able to launch at the same time and on the same rocket thanks to BFR's immense size.
- Leone, Dan (25 October 2013). "SpaceX Could Begin Testing Methane-fueled Engine at Stennis Next Year". Space News. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
- Burghardt, Thomas (25 July 2019). "Starhopper successfully conducts debut Boca Chica Hop". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved 26 July 2019. Cite error: The named reference "nsf20190725" was defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
- Todd, David (22 November 2012). "SpaceX's Mars rocket to be methane-fuelled". Flightglobal. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
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.
- "Space Shuttle Main Engines". NASA. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
- Belluscio, Alejandro G. (3 October 2016). "ITS Propulsion – The evolution of the SpaceX Raptor engine". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
- Bergin, Chris (29 August 2014). "Battle of the Heavyweight Rockets -- SLS could face Exploration Class rival". NASAspaceflight.com. Retrieved 30 August 2014.
- Musk, Elon (27 September 2016). "SpaceX IAC 2016 Announcement" (PDF). Mars Presentation. SpaceX. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 September 2016. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
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SpaceX has already begun self-funded development and testing on our next-generation Raptor engine. ... Raptor development ... will not require external development funds related to this engine.
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Raptor uses those spark plugs to ignite its ignition sources [forming] full-up blow torches ... —likely miniature rocket engines using the same methane and oxygen fuel as Raptor—then ignite the engine’s methane and oxygen preburners before finally igniting those mixed, high-pressure gases in the combustion chamber.
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our focus is the full Raptor size
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SpaceX is developing the Raptor as a reusable engine for a heavy-lift Mars vehicle, the first stage of which will feature 705 tonnes-force (6,910 kN; 1,550,000 lbf) thrust, making it 'slightly larger than the Apollo F-1 engine,' Tom Mueller, SpaceX vice president of propulsion development, said during a space propulsion conference last month in Cologne, Germany. The vacuum version is targeting 840 tonnes-force (8,200 kN; 1,900,000 lbf) thrust with 380 s (3,700 m/s). of specific impulse. The company is testing subscale components using the E-2 test stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, says Stennis spokeswoman Rebecca Strecker. ... Mueller said many people ask why the company switch to methane for its Mars rocket. With reusability in mind, SpaceX's cost studies revealed that 'by far the most cost-effective propellant to use is methane,' he said, which would be easier than hydrogen to manufacture on Mars.
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[initial flight testing will be with] a full-scale ship doing short hops of a few hundred kilometers altitude and lateral distance ... fairly easy on the vehicle, as no heat shield is needed, we can have a large amount of reserve propellant and don’t need the high area ratio, deep space Raptor engines. ... 'The engine thrust dropped roughly in proportion to the vehicle mass reduction from the first IAC talk,' Musk wrote when asked about that reduction in thrust. The reduction in thrust also allows for the use of multiple engines, giving the vehicle an engine-out capability for landings. ... Musk was optimistic about scaling up the Raptor engine from its current developmental model to the full-scale one. 'Thrust scaling is the easy part. Very simple to scale the dev Raptor to 170 tons,' he wrote. 'The flight engine design is much lighter and tighter, and is extremely focused on reliability.' He added the goal is to achieve 'passenger airline levels of safety' with the engine, required if the vehicle is to serve point-to-point transportation markets.
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the updated version of the Mars architecture: Because it has evolved quite a bit since that last talk. ... The key thing that I figured out is how do you pay for it? If we downsize the Mars vehicle, make it capable of doing Earth-orbit activity as well as Mars activity, maybe we can pay for it by using it for Earth-orbit activity. That is one of the key elements in the new architecture. It is similar to what was shown at IAC, but a little bit smaller. Still big, but this one has a shot at being real on the economic front.
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fabricators will work to build the primary airframe of the Starship and Super Heavy vehicles at the SpaceX South Texas build site. [including] the tank (cylindrical structure), tank bulkheads, and other large associated structures for the flight article design of both vehicles.
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