SpaceX Raptor engine sets world record during test

Raptor test firing
SpaceX Raptor engine sets new world record

Elon Musk has revealed that SpaceX has broken a global record during a recent Raptor engine test ensuring the crucial SpaceX Starship component meets years-old performance targets. The SpaceX Raptor engine is used to power the upcoming SpaceX Starship and it has been reaching new levels of power during its development.

The engine reached 330 bar of chamber pressure without exploding. As per NASA, rocket engines are systems having combustion chambers where fuel gets ignited to produce high temperature and high pressure to exhaust gas which comes out through a nozzle to produce thrust. The entire system is based on Newton’s third law of aerodynamics, i.e. “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” so the thrust is just the reaction of pressure creates in the chamber. The whole announcement was done in an unexpected way as SpaceX CEO released some photos of the raptor test with all the relevant graph results displaying the chamber pressure achieved by the Raptor to confirm SpaceX has met the record breaking level.

As per SpaceX CEO the unspecified Raptor engine, most probably SN39 has reached the main combustion chamber pressure of approximately 330 bar during controlled burn and not only that it remained intact after shutdown. The chamber pressure has been measured in bars as per Mask’s post and as per these units, the ambient pressure at sea level is 1.01325bar. The other frequently used measure is pounds per square inch, or psi, where that same measurement would show as 4786.25 psi. The Raptor engine’s chamber pressure has crossed what was achieved by Merlin 1D by a huge margin, as per the NASA document Merlin 1D has a pressure of 1,410 psi or 97 bar. The new record set by SpaceX Raptor engine beats the previous success back in February 2019, when it reached 269 bar.

SpaceX claimed that Raptor Engine would provide half a million pounds of force around 225 tons. On May 2020, as per Musk’s statement the SpaceX super heavy booster used to lift the SpaceX Starship away using 31 engines. According to SpaceX website Super Heavy booster ultimately offers 16 million pound of thrust. As the Raptor’s power levels are already found spectacular its exact strength would be best measured during subsequent hop tests. The SpaceX starship looks approx. 400 feet tall when paired with the super heavy boosters. The new achievement by SpaceX was announced roughly after 18 months Elon Musk revealed that SpaceX had beaten RD 270 full flow staged combustion having a higher chamber pressure, approximately 255 bar. After few days the same SpaceX Raptor Engine got passed Russian RD 180’s which is capable to produce chamber pressure of 258 bar. Last year around July and August the Raptor engine took off twice on Star hopper reaching peak at approximately 20 meter and 150 meter hop which almost destroyed the engine itself just after landing. After one year Raptor SN27 launched on SpaceX Starship SN5 on the same 150m trajectory.

This time the performance was perfect without showing any stutter or flare. SpaceX is known for continuous refinement of their prototypes to come out with a more improved product after each trial and so SN27never met the fate of SN6. If the engine can maintain the chamber pressure of 330 bar without damaging itself, the milestone can indicate that SpaceX has already boosted Raptor’s maximum thrust from ~200 metric tons to ~225 metric tons (440,000-500,000lbf) for Starship and Super Heavy, that 10% increment in thrust can turn out to a 5-10%increase in payload to orbit per launch. To reach orbit still there are few things to look at. SpaceX will need to expand Raptor production quiet heavily approximately 31 engines per booster to ensure that the engine can reliably operate for 3 to 5+ minutes and reignite itself multiple times during the flight. SpaceX would need the engine to burn for 5-10minutes continuously to reach the orbit for Starship. SpaceX is also eyeing to finish a custom vacuum-optimized version of the engine for efficient orbital Starship flights. SpaceX Starship SN8 will likely be the first prototype to fly with three Raptor engines. It will need the functionality to stop and start those engines during the flight to perform full-fidelity 20 km (~12.5 mi) launch and landing tests.

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