SpaceX CEO Elon Musk arrives in Texas for milestone Starship engine test



On Saturday evening, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk landed in Waco, Texas – possibly along with additional SpaceX propulsion engineers – to the crucial static fire debut of their initial “radically redesigned” Raptor engine, also constructed to electricity BFR’s Starship top stage and Super Heavy booster.

In the event the very first operationalized Raptor’s static fire tests go well, there are numerous possible routes the evaluation app could take, all of which will end up with this motor and many others being tested and ultimately installed on your Starship hopper (Starhopper) model under construction approximately 500 miles (800 km) south of SpaceX’s Raptor evaluation cell.

In @SpaceX Texas with engineering team getting ready to fire new Raptor rocket engine

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 3, 2019

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Shortly after Musk revealed official photos of this very first operationalized Raptor getting ready for an inaugural stationary fire test at SpaceX’s McGregor, Texas facilities, the SpaceX and Tesla CEO’s personal jet was spotted landing at Waco, Texas round sunset. Though all SpaceX technical expertise required for Raptor’s ignition was probably already on site several days ahead, Musk was known to offer seats on his personal airplanes to SpaceX and Tesla workers when a critical group is needed away from their normal base of operations. The examples come from Tesla engineering expertise occasionally traveling between Fremont and Gigafactory 1 if necessary, often to resolve production holdups.

Irrespective of if he was traveling with all members of their SpaceX propulsion team, Musk’s arrival at McGregor yesterday signified that Raptor Block 1’s integrated hot-fire was also imminent. Assuming no effort was made on Saturday night or Sunday morning, SpaceX engineers and technicians are presumably still working on installing what’s effectively a brand new rocket engine and ensuring that Raptor’s evaluation cells – extensively overhauled and updated for the event – are working as intended. While the development Raptors SpaceX built hovered around 1000 kN (~100t) of thrust, also approximately the like Merlin 1D, the Raptor currently on stand in Texas is allegedly a 200 ton-class engine more than double the thrust of just about any engine SpaceX technicians and engineers have built or test-fired within 15 years of engine development.

A branch in the R&D street

Prior to completing Raptor Block 1 (unofficial designation), SpaceX cumulatively test-fired dev Raptors for much more than 1200 seconds over the course of more than 24 months. It’s unclear how broadly the firm ’s engineers are going to have the ability to test that the pathfinder hardware built on the back of that extensive assessment program. Nominally, one would anticipate hundreds or thousands of seconds of further testing to properly describe the design and production of a brand new, optimized engine like Raptor while mostly ensuring that it performs within engineering specifications.

Understanding CEO Elon Musk’s self-admitted inclination to push for impractical deadlines and schedules that often appeared dashed to the sake of racing, it’s not impossible that the very first Raptors could find themselves installed the Boca Chica-based Starhopper evaluation post after Merlin-esque approval testing and nothing more. For M1D and MVac, approval testing typically takes the form of a full-duration burn throttle and gimbal activity to closely simulate an authentic Falcon 9 or Heavy launching. For your 200-ton Raptor currently in Texas, corresponding acceptance testing may take various forms, ranging from short Starhopper-relevant burns (10-60 minutes for little hops) to simulating states during a Super Heavy launching and landing or even a 6 or 7-minute orbital insertion burn indicative of their performance required for Starship.

A trio of all roughshod Raptor mockups were installed on Starhopper around Jan. 1, so presumably helping technicians and engineers prepare to set up the real thing. (NASASpaceflight – bocachicagal.

Depending upon the interplay between the route SpaceX engineers will probably prefer and the Starhopper test program executives and managers might desire, this very first Raptor engine (and 2 more soon to follow) can be installed on Starhopper anywhere from a few weeks to several months from now. Elon Musk signaled in early January that he expected hop tests could occur 4-8 months later, shortly followed by unplanned harm to the craft’s nose cone that pushed the debut back “a few weeks”.

Waiting for 4 months, which means 8 months, due to unforeseen issues

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 5, 2019

I simply heard. 50 miles winds broke that the mooring cubes last night & fairing was dismissed. Will take a few weeks to fix.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 23, 2019

Realistically, hop tests should therefore be anticipated to start no earlier than (NET) 8-12 months from the very first week of January, translating to NET March or even April. This would provide SpaceX propulsion engineers a decent amount of time to gain at least a few hundred (or possibly 1000+) minutes of experience operating the newest and most innovative iteration of Raptor.

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