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SpaceX Raptor: large methane engine (updates)


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#1 DocM

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Posted 23 October 2013 - 16:43

SpaceX has signed up to test the new Raptor methane engine at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

The article confirms a vacuum thrust of 300 metric tons, or 660,000 lbf - about 4x the thrust of Merlin 1D.

Interesting aside: unlike most rockets that have bright yellow & white plumes, methane engines have a huge blue flame. This pup will be spectacular.

I think the balloon has just gone up on the SpaceX Big F'ing Rocket (BFR, Falcon X or whatever they call it.)

http://www.sunherald...her-rocket.html

HANCOCK COUNTY -- Stennis has landed yet another engine rocking testing program, Gov. Phil Bryant announced on Wednesday.

SpaceX, a commercial spaceflight company, will begin testing their Raptor methane rocket engines at the Hancock County site. According to a release from the governor's office, the engines are capable of generating nearly 300 tons of thrust in vacuum.

"With our rich history of supporting America's space program, the state of Mississippi is an excellent choice for this type of innovative testing and aerospace technology," Bryant said.

The release stated that under a future agreement, SpaceX will upgrade the E-2 test stand at Stennis with methane capability.

Testing is expected to start in early 2014. Upon execution of the agreement, the release stated that infrastructure improvements will be made to make the stand capable of supporting many potential users.

"This agreement supports SpaceX's efforts for continued engine research and development in parallel with our growing operational testing programs," Bryant said.

The Mississippi Development Authority and Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission will provide assistance with the infrastructure improvements to the E-2 test stand site.

"We are pleased to welcome this trailblazer in commercial space flight to the ranks of industry-leading companies that have chosen Stennis to capitalize on the strategic advantages inherent in that location," said Brent Christensen, MDA executive director.

Rick Gilbrech, Stennis center director, said that the unique research capabilities at Stennis helped land the Raptor engine testing through SpaceX.

"We are pleased to welcome this trailblazer in commercial space flight to the ranks of industry-leading companies that have chosen Stennis to capitalize on the strategic advantages inherent in that location," he said.


More....

http://www.seattlepi...iss-4919628.php


#2 Beittil

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Posted 23 October 2013 - 19:38

That is pretty awesome, I didn't know they were already to the point where Raptor hardware is being made and prepped for these testings.

 

Do you know why they chose a NASA center btw and not their own testing site in McGregor TX?



#3 OP DocM

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Posted 23 October 2013 - 22:25

Noise, facilities and politics.

Noise because poor McGregor is already going to have to put up with the Falcon Heavy tests next year, as in 27 engines totaling >4 million lbf of thrust. Don't want to get the natives even more restless.

Facilities because they'll only have the one large Falcon Heavy test stand and the Falcon 9 tripod. Those will be busy testing FH and production F9 stages for commercial, military and NASA launches.

Politics because Raptor puts them in a good place to compete for liquid boosters for SLS, an SLS replacement if it gets canceled, and possibly a common (across launchers) upper stage NASA is thinking about. Stennis is in the state (Miss.) of a VERY powerful Republican senator who could be Chair of space & military committees if Republicans take the Senate next year (more possible than some think.)

#4 Beittil

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Posted 24 October 2013 - 12:18

Wasn't the idea anyway to replace the Merlin 1D-Vac engine of the upper stages with this new engine anyway?



#5 OP DocM

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Posted 24 October 2013 - 15:13

Most upper stage engines are nowhere near this large but on a super-duper-heavy it makes sense. The 300 ton/660,000 lbf Raptor mentioned in the reports will be twice the thrust of even the SLS's J-2X upper stage engine.

For F9/FH we just don't know as a Raptor upper stage for those would have to be longer, wider or both vs. the M1D vacuum stage because of methane's lower density and the size of a big Raptor's vacuum nozzle.

Perhaps Raptor will be a family of engines with both an M1D size and the larger one, but perhaps not. Not enough info to judge.

It's also an advanced staged combustion engine like the shuttle SSME's, meaning it's more efficient than the usual gas generator engines.

Dorothy, Kansas is going bye-bye.

#6 OP DocM

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 20:45

http://www.spacenews...ennis-next-year

SpaceX Could Begin Testing Methane-fueled Engine at Stennis Next Year

WASHINGTON — Leveraging a $1.1 million incentive from NASA and the Mississippi Development Agency, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) plans to begin testing components of a methane-fueled engine called Raptor at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi early next year.

Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX will perform these tests at Stennis’ E-2 test facility, which will require an upgrade to accommodate the full Raptor engine — a closed-loop methane-oxygen concept SpaceX is working on for missions to deep space. The upgrades would be funded by SpaceX, NASA and the Mississippi Development Authority.

We are looking to test the whole engine at Stennis, but the first phase starts with the components,” SpaceX spokeswoman Emily Shanklin said in an Oct. 25 email. “The E-2 stand at Stennis is big enough for components, but we would need a bigger stand for the whole Raptor.

The E-2 complex was designed for advanced materials testing for the defunct National Aerospace Plane, a horizontal-takeoff-and-landing, single-stage-to-orbit concept that was jointly funded by NASA and the Defense Department before being canceled in 1993. NASA last used the complex in 2012 to test chemical steam generators, agency spokeswoman Rebecca Strecker wrote in an Oct. 25 email.

Each of the two stands at E-2 — one is for horizontal engine mounting, one for vertical — is rated for 100,000 pounds of thrust, according to the Stennis website. SpaceX’s Raptor engine is designed to generate more than 661,000 pounds of thrust in a vacuum, Shanklin said.

SpaceX founder and Chief Executive Elon Musk has mentioned Raptor before, sometimes in connection with notional plans to colonize Mars. The Raptor name has been applied to multiple SpaceX concept engines, including one that would have been be fueled by hydrogen.

The current Raptor concept “is a highly reusable methane staged-combustion engine that will power the next generation of SpaceX launch vehicles designed for the exploration and colonization of Mars,” Shanklin said. “The Raptor engine currently in development is the first in what we expect to be a family of engines.”

Staged combustion, also called closed-loop combustion, will be a new trick for SpaceX. The company’s Merlin family of kerosene-fueled rocket engines, currently in use on its Falcon 9 rocket, use an open-cycle, gas-generator configuration. Given identical fuel-oxidizer mixtures and propellant flow volumes, a closed-loop engine is more efficient than one with an open loop configuration.


SpaceX has not disclosed how much money it will spend on test stand enhancements at Stennis. Shanklin said only that the company’s investment would be “significant.”

The Mississippi Development Authority, using a tranche of funding from state bond issues, is putting up $500,000 for E-2 modifications, according to Manning McPhillips, chief administrative officer for the authority. NASA will put up as much as $600,000, Strecker told SpaceNews.

Testing will not begin until SpaceX and Stennis sign a Space Act Agreement that sets the ground rules, including usage fees, for the company’s activities on government property. Exact terms are still being hashed out, Strecker said.

“Negotiations are in the preliminary stages, with final execution ... expected in the near future,” Strecker said. “The Reimbursable Space Act Agreement will operate under a full-cost recovery model requiring SpaceX to pay NASA for all costs associated with the activity.”

SpaceX’s main rocket-testing facility is near McGregor, Texas. Shanklin would not say whether any Raptor testing had already been done there, or why future tests should be performed at Stennis.

One of Stennis’ advantages is its isolation — there are no neighbors to complain about noise, as there are in McGregor.

“Stennis has an 125,000 acre (5,060 square kilometer) acoustic buffer zone, which means you can test anything 24-7,” McPhillips, said in an Oct. 24 phone interview.

“This is the beginning of what we hope is a long-term relationship with SpaceX,” McPhillips said.

Stennis has been testing rocket engines since NASA’s earliest days. Most recently, the center hosted testing of the J-2X, a hydrogen-fueled engine conceived to power the upper stage engine of the Space Launch System NASA is building. However, NASA has not identified any mission that requires a J-2X, and the engine is to be mothballed once the current round of testing is complete.

SpaceX will not be the only so-called “new-space” company to test at Stennis. Blue Origin, the quiet, Kent, Wash., firm bankrolled by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, tested the combustion chamber for its 100,000 pound-thrust, hydrogen-fueled BE-3 engine at Stennis back in 2012.

Although no major U.S. manufacturer besides SpaceX has announced plans to build a methane-fueled rocket engine, Shanklin noted that “any upgrades we make will remain with the test stand” and that “the improvements we’ll make to the stand are not custom to Raptor, and could be used for testing of other methane engines.”



#7 SALSN

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Posted 26 October 2013 - 10:36

Perhaps it could be used on the mysterious MCT?



#8 OP DocM

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Posted 26 October 2013 - 13:32

VERY likely since the evolving theory is that the MCT is a vehicle with an integrated Earth/Mars departure stage, habitat and facilities for docking/berthing landers, crew return vehicles etc.

As a departure stage it would have 2x the thrust and nearly as much ISP (380 v 448) of NASA's J-2X, which is being developed for SLS. On the other hand, Raptor could be refueled at Mars by fuel tugs from the surface and methane does not boil off like liquid hydrogen.

#9 OP DocM

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Posted 20 February 2014 - 07:25

OK kiddies, time to recalibrate our sights. Raptor is larger than rumored, the rocket it's for a friggin beast, and the mass one launch will land on Mars is stunning.

http://www.pacbiztim...-santa-barbara/

SpaceXs propulsion chief elevates crowd in Santa Barbara

Tom Mueller, the head of rocket engine development at Hawthorne-based SpaceX, said....
>
> (lots of anecdotal and historical stuff....)
>
But the companys true goal remains Mars. Mueller said Musks office has two giant pictures of Mars one as the red planet looks today, and one as it might look if colonized.

These days, Muellers main focus is the Raptor engine, a reusable power plant that would use liquid methane and oxygen and provide 1 million pounds of thrust. Nine of them would be combined on one craft.

Its going to put over 100 tons of cargo up to Mars, Mueller said. That's what it takes to get to Mars.



#10 malenfant

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Posted 20 February 2014 - 08:34

A Saturn V <50 Tons to TLI. 100 Tons to Mars?! Bloody Hell.

I read elsewhere Musk thought Mars in ~10 yrs was possible. Assuming that's possible how does he intend to fund it?

Edit: as far as funding goes -Zubrin thought an initial mission using existing boosters could be done for ~5 Billion... so maybe.

#11 OP DocM

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Posted 20 February 2014 - 09:45

SpaceX is reinvesting much of its launch contract profits into R&D for these projects, and even before F9 v1.1 did those GTO launches the manifest totalled >$5B.

They'll soon have DoD launches, more commercial payloads (Arianespace is VERY worried), possibly a NASA contract to fly crews to ISS and 4 pads to fly from; KSC LC-40, KSC LC-39A, Vandenberg SLC-4E and the new private complex expected to be near Brownsville TX. Brownsville may also get the large booster factory.

There is also speculation of 2 other pads down the road, one at KSC and one at Vandenberg.

Not to mention Falcon Heavy is expected to fly this year, and we just found out it'll have an optional 5.2 x ~19 meter fairing. Big enough for a fully loaded Bigelow BA-330 space station module.

#12 Beittil

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Posted 20 February 2014 - 12:27

Would those new pads be for this monster rocket or for current traffic with F9?

 

I mean, another Vandenberg pad? Are there so many polar launches in the pipeline? They have launched just one rocket from there...

 

Anyway, can't wait to see this monster take shape over the next couple of years. Should be extremely exciting!



#13 OP DocM

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Posted 20 February 2014 - 12:37

Don't forget that the nearby Vandy SLC-6 was originally going to be a 2nd Shuttle pad but it was never used.

The speculation is for them to eventually take over SLC-4W, the unused mate to their SLC-4E facility. It's not only good for DoD polar orbits but other high inclination orbits, and if the launcher made a dogleg turn high up it could also launch equitorial orbits with a reduced payload. Falcon Heavy could easily do this with plenty of reserve power.

The speculation at KSC is for them to build LC-39C, the third pad at LC-39 NASA was going to build but never did. They built part of the road & traffic lights though. It could be whatever SpaceX wants.

#14 Steve Galbincea

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Posted 24 February 2014 - 17:34

This is what a 7,500 pound methane rocket looks like. Simply multiply by 88 to get an idea of what we are talking about with Raptor.

 

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=dumolLDfWw4

 

Makes me want to play more Kerbal.  :)



#15 flyingskippy

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Posted 24 February 2014 - 17:54

The shock diamonds look awesome!