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SpaceX Raptor: large methane engine (updates)

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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.com/2013/10/23/5053390/stennis-lands-spacex-another-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.com/news/article/SpaceX-to-test-methane-rocket-engine-in-Miss-4919628.php

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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?

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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.)

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

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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.

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Perhaps it could be used on the mysterious MCT?

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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.

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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.pacbiztimes.com/2014/02/19/spacexs-propulsion-chief-elevates-crowd-in-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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.com/watch?v=dumolLDfWw4

 

Makes me want to play more Kerbal.  :)

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The shock diamonds look awesome!

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88x would be for the original Raptor ~660,000 lbf thrust spec. That is no longer operative.

Raptor was recently upgraded to 1,000,000 lbf, so 1,000,000

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SpaceX President & COO Gwynne Shotwell on The Space Show about future Mars plans,

We should have really great progress on our Mars vehicles. [challenges are] Turning those R&D vehicles into production vehicles, finding enough launch sites where you can get a lot of people moving, or at least planning for the launch sites to get a lot of people moving, and launching.

They appear to be making a distinction between early R&D Mars vehicles and spacecraft and the later production-level vehicles used for colony building. This sort of iterative design has always seemed likely but this is the first time they've expressed it.

This also makes it more likely we'll see the see the Block 1 Raptor (1 mlbf) recently discussed evolve into the Block 2 Raptor (1.67 mlbf !!) hinted at by Musk's recent statements about a 15 mlbf core (too little for the tri-core, and a 550 klbf Raptor in a tri-core is unlikely.)

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HOLD THE PHONE....

At 10:00 AM on Saturday May 17 Jeff Thornburg, Spacex's Principal Propulsion Engineer will make a presentation about Raptor at ISDC 2014 (International Space Development Conference), which takes place between may 14-18

"Raptor High Performance Rocket Engine"

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http://www.spaceflightinsider.com/space-organizations/space-exploration-technologies-space-organizations/stennis-space-center-spacex-e-2-test-stand-ribbon-cutting/

When asked about the anticipated thrust of the new engine, Shotwell declined to give specifics, and stated that a lot of the work that were going to do here at Stennis is going to inform our ultimate architecture for the Raptor engine. She then stated that the engine would, in any case, generate over a million pounds of thrust.

>

SpaceXs Jeff Thornburg followed by stating that the first test on the stand would take place in a matter of days and Shotwell added that the initial testing should last for about a year or two.

When asked to compare Raptor engine technology to other technology currently available, Thornburg explained that theres nothing like this thats ever been produced before, in terms of rocket engine technology . . . . This is the first system, base-lined from the beginning, for flight with methane. And it incorporates engine cycling technologies for reusability that have never been fielded in the history of propulsion development . . . Everything you see starting here on the E-2 complex, and growing beyond, will all be first of its kind in the world.

>

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OK.....

at another forum some very experienced rocket designers, US and Russian, have been running the known SpaceX Raptor engine and launcher specs through the Rocket Equation (yes, there is one) to see what kind of rocket comes out the other end if everything else is optimized. Images were generated.

THIS IS NOT SPACEX DATA, but it was genetated by very experienced people.

I can't show the latest ones for a Block 2 big F'ing rocket (BFR), but a small pic of the Block 1 BFR (smaller) has appeared in Google Images.

SORRY, but I can't publish the full size images of either Block 1 or Block 2. In fact, this image is out of date - but close.

This is just to give you an idea of their relative scale to past launchers: the Space Shuttle and Saturn V.

From left: Falcon 9, Shuttle, Falcon Heavy, BFR single-core Crew & Cargo, BFR tri-core Crew, Saturn V, BFR tri-core Cargo

S2.jpg

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Double Bummer :(

Maybe the big boss wants to do the reveal.

@jeff_foust

Bummer. The #isdc talk this morning on SpaceX's Raptor engine development, anticipated by many here, is canceled; speaker not here.

12:51pm - 17 May 14

@jeff_foust

@Capoglou Apparently busy working

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On an unrelated note, do we know if congress wants to provide extra funds to Spacex to speed up development of dragonrider?

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There's a lot of backchannel stuff I can't go into detail about, and it's not just limited to SpaceX or commercial crew. This Russia stuff has lit a lot of fires.

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