On Saturday evening, SpaceX CEO Elon Mous arrived in Waco, Texas – perhaps along with additional SpaceX engineers – for the critical debut of the static fire of the first "radically revised" Raptor engine built to power the BFR and Super BFR Heavy.
If Raptor's first operational stationary fire tests go well, there are several possible routes that the test program can take, all of which will complete with this engine and several others that will be tested and eventually installed on the prototype Starship hopper ) under construction. 500 miles (800 kilometers) south of SpaceX's Raptor test cell.
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 3, 2019
Shortly after Musk revealed official photos of the first operative Raptor, who was preparing for a static fire test at McGregor, Texas, SpaceX and Tesla's private airplane, they were spotted in Waco, Texas. Although all the technical knowledge of SpaceX needed for the first Raptor firing may have been in place a few days earlier, Musk is known to offer spacecraft spacecraft spacecraft and Tesla employees when needed critical group, far from their normal base. The best examples come from Tesla's engineering experience, which sometimes travels between Fremont and Gigafactory 1 when needed, often to solve production bets.
Whether traveling with members of the SpaceX crew, McGregor's arrival at McGregor yesterday meant that Raptor's first integrated hot fire was forthcoming. Assuming no attempts were made on Saturday night or Sunday morning, SpaceX engineers and engineers continue to work on installing a new rocket engine and to ensure that Raptor's test cells – thoroughly repaired and upgraded for the case – work as intended . While the Raptors SpaceX was moving about 1000 kN (~ 100t) of thrust, roughly the same as Merlin 1D, Raptor is now considered to be a 200 ton engine or more than twice as much as one engine. Engineers and technicians of SpaceX have built or tested for 15 years of engine development.
Raptor's only official renderer, published by SpaceX in September 2016, Raptor, who was leaving for Hawthorne in January 19, seemed relatively similar. (SpaceX)
Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk revealed the first official photos of SpaceX's finalized Raptor engine to support Starship hop testing and the start of the BFR launch. (SpaceX)
Current SpaceX facilities have a test stand for Raptor, which is designed to power BFR and BFS on Mars. (SpaceX)
The Raptor prototype is visible here during your first ignition test. (SpaceX)
2017 test-shot Raptor Rapid Development, about 50% less powerful than a full-scale system. (SpaceX)
Fork in the R & D road
Before completing Unit 1 of Raptor (unofficial designation), SpaceX has been testing Raptors for many more than 1200 seconds for more than 24 months. It is unclear how the company's engineers will be able to test the hardware created on the back of this extensive test program. Nominal, hundreds or thousands of seconds of additional tests will be expected to properly characterize the design and production of a brand new, optimized engine such as Raptor, while ensuring that it meets engineering specifications.
Knowing the propensity of Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk to insist on impractical timing and timing, which often appear because of hurry, it is not impossible for the first Raptors to be installed on Boca Chika's test article after Merlin-esque testing and nothing more. For M1D and MVac, acceptance testing typically takes the form of full-time gas burning and cardan work to simulate a true Falcon 9 or Heavy launch. For the 200-tonne Raptor now in Texas, comparable acceptance tests can take various forms ranging from short Starhopper-related burns (10-60 seconds for small hops) to simulating conditions during a super heavy start and landing or even 6 or 7-minute incineration with orbital insertion, which is indicative of the work required for Starship.
Depending on the interaction between the route that SpaceX engineers would most likely prefer from the Starhopper test schedule, Starhopper managers and managers may want this Raptor's first engine (and two more more) to be installed of the Starhopper from a few weeks to several months. Early in January, Elon Musk said he hoped 4-8 weeks later to run hop tests, followed by unscheduled damage to the bow of the craft, which pushed the debut "a few weeks."
The goal is 4 weeks, which probably means 8 weeks due to unforeseen problems
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) 5 January 2019
I just heard. 50 mph wind broke mooring blocks late last night & the raid was blasted. It will take several weeks to repair.
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 23, 2019
Realistically, hops tests are expected to begin not earlier than (NET) 8-12 weeks from the first week of January, translating into NET March or April. This would give SpaceX engineers enough time to gain at least a few hundred (or perhaps 1000+) seconds of experience in exploiting the latest and most advanced Raptor iteration.
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