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SpaceX To Test ‘Mars Colonial Transporter’ Rocket Engine

Aug 10, 2016 04:58 AM EDT
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SpaceX successfully launches its 14th Falcon 9 rocket

SpaceX has shipped a rocket engine to its test site in Texas to begin developmental tests.

During the Small Satellite Conference in Logan, Utah on Tuesday, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said that the company has moved a Raptor rocket engine to its test site in McGregor, Texas, Ars Technica reports.

The Raptor, which will be powered by methane and liquid oxygen, is SpaceX's next-generation rocket engine, and is said to be three times more powerful than the Merlin engines that power the Falcon 9 rocket and upcoming Falcon Heavy rocket, which could carry payloads and people to Mars.

The Raptor will power the next generation of rocket after the Falcon Heavy, which is known as the Mars Colonial Transporter (code name BFR), a system capable of transporting 100 colonists at a time to the Red Planet.

The Mars Colonial Transporter will consist of a first stage booster and a second stage spaceship, and will likely be powered by a cluster of nine Raptor engines.

According to Spaceflight Insider, estimates showed that the Raptor's thrust will be approximately 2,300 kilonewtons, about three times the thrust of the Merlin 1D engine and one-third of the thrust of the Apollo Saturn F-1 engine.

The Raptor operates under lower temperatures and chamber pressures because it runs on full-flow methane liquid oxygen. This makes the engine lighter, easy to maintain, and sturdier.

According to SpaceX, the engine design will be able to achieve full reusability, and as a result, lower the costs of spaceflights.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has this goal in mind: to start a human colony on Mars. This year, however, the company is progressing steadily towards that goal. Earlier this year, SpaceX announced that it will send its Dragon spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018.

According to Ars Technica, Musk will be unveiling more details about the company's Mars colonization at the International Astronautical Conference, which will be held in Guadalajara, Mexico on September 26 to 30.

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