Elon Musk just showed off SpaceX's Starship Raptor engine firing

Raptor Engine

SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk announced the test in a series of tweets late February 3, a couple hours after observers near the company's test site in McGregor, Texas, has seen and heard what appeared to be an engine test of some kind.

Elon Musk and a SpaceX illustration of its Starship rocket on Mars.

Raptor is the engine SpaceX intends to use to eventually get to Mars, which is why it has roughly twice the thrust of the Merlin 1D engine used in the Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

Yesterday Musk tweeted a picture of himself next to the rocket engine as it was prepared for testing.

A still shows a kaleidoscope of colours streaming from the engine, although that could be just the camera not quite keeping up with the fire's intensity. While SpaceX plans to develop optimized versions of the Raptor for both the Starship upper stage and the lower booster stage, now called Super Heavy, SpaceX is, for now, working on only a single version of the engine for both.

He also said on Friday that the Raptor would be further optimized for operations in vacuum and at sea level. The Starship is the craft that is created to transport people across the Earth in hours and eventually carry humans to Mars.

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The prototype (or hopper) experienced some major setbacks last month when it was toppled by strong winds in Texas. Musk said January 23 that it will take "a few weeks" to fix that section of the vehicle.

The nosecone fairing was simply welded on top to improve aerodynamics and provide the appearance and aesthetic of a completed rocket.

SpaceX test-fired February 3 the first flight version of the Raptor engine the company has developed for its next-generation launch system.

'Unlike Atlas, Starship is buckling stable on launchpad even when unpressurized, ' Musk said.

The SpaceX founder has said previously that this prototype is not yet at full height and is suborbital, though he is aiming for an orbital launch around mid-2019.

The BFR (Big F***ing Rocket), now known as Starship, will complete all missions and is smaller than the ones Musk announced in 2016.

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