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Space X fires its Mars mission Raptor rocket engine in first test

Space X has successfully fired its first test of its Raptor interplanetary transport rocket engine while grounded. Able to achieve more than three times the thrust of Space X’s Merlin 1D engines used by its current-generation Falcon 9 rockets, the Raptor could further reduce space travel costs and make travel to Mars far easier.

The Raptor engine concept has been under design for over seven years, with Space X pouring millions into its development. It uses methane and liquid oxygen for propulsion, rather than the Merlin’s RP1 (refined kerosene) and liquid oxygen. Due to higher pressures in the combustion chamber, the Raptor can produce more than three times as much thrust, with roughly the same physical dimensions as the Merlin engines.

Although still some way off from powering the next generation of Space X spacecraft, the Raptor’s first successful firing test is a significant milestone. It burned well at the Space X McGregor, Texas facility, delivering as much as three meganewtons of thrust, or around 310 metric tonnes. It showed itself capable of burning for near six and a half minutes too, much longer than Merlin engines.

Eventually Space X plans to replace much of its rocket engines with the Raptor design, something that we’re told will further improve overall efficiency of the launch vehicles and make it possible to send them faster and further than ever before. This is likely to be the engine used for at least the interplanetary stage of Space X’s planned 2018 mission to send an unmanned probe to Mars.

This engine showcase comes just a few hours before Space X CEO Elon Musk’s planned talk on the future of the company and how it plans to make humanity a multi-planet species within the next few decades.

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KitGuru Says: As a KSP player, the idea of using the same engines for multiple stages seems very strange, but in terms of real-world efficiency, it makes a hell of a lot of sense. 

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