SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, says there is now a chance that a vacuum-optimized version of the Raptor engine will be ready for the short-term launch of Starship, indicating that development has either been re-prioritized or smoother runs as expected.
This is a major departure from a strategy that Musk discussed only four months ago, when a single variant of Raptor on Starship and Super Heavy was used to shorten the path of the next generation rocket into orbit. For unknown reasons, this approach could have already been replaced by a new alternative, which would lead to a spaceship with six instead of seven raptors and a 50:50 split between vacuum- and sea-level optimized engines.
Without a more specific Timeline development, it's unclear if RaptorSL-only versions of Starship will ever create it as a sort of interim solution to orbit. The fact that SpaceX is already considering an accelerated vacuum variant is a good indication of the current state of the art at sea level, and Musk admitted that RaptorVac's development should be delayed just days before Raptor's first major fire in February 201
Speaking Less Than Four Months ago, the purpose of delaying RaptorVac development was to "reach the moon as fast as possible". As long as a spaceship powered by non-optimized raptors can reach the moon, designing with RaptorVac would lead to delays without it happening. Temporary benefits. The most obvious reasons why SpaceX would reverse the RaptorVac strategy are changes in the level of technical confidence (ie, the Raptor tests are running better than expected) or SpaceX's motivation to "as soon as possible" Moon arrive.
The latter explanation is certainly possible, especially given the recent evidence of lack of funding and Congressional interest in NASA's lunar return proposal. SpaceX has its own commercial designs for Starship to reach the Moon shortly, including some kind of contract with Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. As such, SpaceX's Raptor program is more likely to make rapid progress and outperform the expectations of the company's strategic threads.
According to Musk, sea level-optimized Raptor development is proceeding so smoothly that SpaceX may be able to achieve relatively high volume production this summer (June 1 through August 31) – more than two engines per week. , Currently, SpaceX seems to focus on testing Raptor at its development facilities in McGregor, Texas. This is no surprise for a state-of-the-art rocket engine that has been fully tested less than four months after the test, as inevitable nominal deviations or unexpected behavior in test fires can often lead to design optimizations or even major changes.
Since the delivery of the first finalized Raptor at McGregor at the end of January, SpaceX has Average one test run completes a new engine per month, which were then all tested in Texas. After completing the McGregor acceptance tests, SN03 was also the first Raptor engine to leave the ground on its own as part of Star Hopper's first two tethered hops. According to Musk, Starhopper could return to "flight" on May 31st.
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