SpaceX’s Starship engine breaks Russian record amid extraordinary test series - Mon 11 Feb 06:06 GMT

SpaceX’s Starship engine breaks Russian record amid extraordinary test series

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says the company’s Raptor engine, meant to power Starship and Super Heavy, has surpassed a rocketry record held by Russian scientists and engineers for more than two decades. Known as combustion chamber pressure, Raptor has reportedly sur…

  RD-180 has been reliably flying on ULA’s Atlas V rocket with chamber pressures as high ~267 bar (3870 psi) since the year 2000, while Raptor has been performing subscale integrated testing for roughly two years and full-scale integrated testing for less than seven days.

  Thanks to the 10-20% performance boost supercool liquid methane and oxygen will bring Raptor, currently stuck using propellant just barely cold enough to remain liquid, the engine performing tests could already be made to reach its design specification of 300+ bar (4350+ psi), although Musk cautioned that he wasn’t sure Raptor would be able to survive that power in its current iteration.

  Ultimately, the sheer speed of SpaceX’s full-scale Raptor test program is easily the most impressive and encouraging aspect of the brand new engine design.

  Still, the best possible recent point of comparison to Raptor’s test program can be found in NASA’s series of tests of Space Shuttle engines in preparation for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, an expendable launch vehicle being built by Boeing, Aerojet-Rocketdyne, NGIS (formerly Orbital-ATK), and others with NASA funds.

  Given that the vast majority of those ex-Space Shuttle Main Engine tests tend to last hundreds of seconds, it’s not a perfect comparison, but it offers at least a general idea of just how incredible it is to see a groundbreaking engine like Raptor test-fired almost daily just days after it was installed on a test stand for the first time.