Elon Musk provides a first look at the Massive Starship rocket catcher.

Image Credit: SpaceX

The year 2021 will go down in history as a pivotal year for human space exploration, and that is certain. A collection of billionaires and their companies successfully transporting people beyond Earth's atmosphere is a once-in-a-lifetime event, opening the door to space travel and who knows what else in the future.


The new year is already shaping up to be even more exciting than the last one was. The next few months will be dominated by the launching of Artemis I, the first mission in a program to establish a permanent human presence on and around a spaceship.


Our species' first orbital trip on the Starship might happen decades from now, thanks to Elon Musk, one of the three billionaires who created history in 2021: the billionaire entrepreneur.

 


Even though the spaceship will be utilized for lunar transportation, Musk's ultimate goal is to safely return humans to Earth from Mars.


Several Starship prototypes got to the skies in 2021, but most were destroyed when they tried the risky and complex descent procedure. This year's orbital mission will be possible thanks to the successful launch and landing of one rocket.


Although the FAA has said that it plans to complete its environmental impact analysis for the launch by the end of February, which would seem to delay the launch until March, sources indicate that the launch might go place as early as this month.


What matters is that the launch will happen soon enough. Elon Musk opted to add to the suspense by showing us a glimpse of his Starship launch and catch tower. An aerial camera sliding away from the building to reveal the enormous structure under the sea is a dolly shot kind of film.

 


The tweet shown below has all of this and more.


According to Elon Musk's statements, a more powerful Raptor 2 engine for the Starship is in the works at SpaceX.


Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, has taken to Twitter to share updates on Starship and its Raptor engines.


The installation of an extra three Raptor engines, which may raise the ship's maximum thrust by 50% and considerably enhance payload performance, were two of Musk's most ambitious plans for the Starship's upgrade, which he revealed in mid-December. The Raptor engine will be improved, and structural enhancements will also be made to the Starship.


During the company's increased ground testing of the new engine, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk claims that "Raptor 2 now runs reliably at 300 bar central chamber pressure.


On February 10th, 2019, only a few days after SpaceX began testing the first full-scale Raptor prototype ever built, the engine briefly achieved a primary combustion chamber pressure just shy of 269 bar (3900 psi). Before ULA's Atlas V, Russia's RD-270 and RD-180 engines held the previous speed records.


Musk had to wait 18 months before he could demonstrate that at least one Raptor prototype could sustain such high chamber pressures in steady-state operation for at least a minute or more. Russia's RD-701, which had been tested to 300 bar but never flew, couldn't keep up with this engine's extraordinary 330 bar output, which briefly placed it at the top of rankings of the world's most powerful rocket engines.


Even though Raptor has not yet been operational in the sense of supporting orbital-class launches, the engine has enabled dozens of Starship static burns and seven flight tests—five of which took place in only six months—and has subsequently supported seven flight tests.


So far, SpaceX has relied almost wholly on the Raptor 2, even though neither the Raptor 1 nor the Raptor 1.5 engines have ever attempted an orbital-class launch.


Raptor ground testing at the company's McGregor, Texas research lab is reportedly focusing on the upgraded hardware, which purportedly features cleaner plumbing and wiring. Musk. Most notable about Raptor 2's new design is a notional thrust increase from 185 to 230 tonnes. Raptor 2 (408,000-507,000 lbs).



It is possible to enlarge the nozzle's 'throat' to enhance power density. However, doing so would reduce the Raptor's efficiency. A variety of new design features in Raptor 2 enable it to function at 300 bar chamber pressures, which is 10% greater than Raptor 1's.


Musk live-tweeted a first Raptor 2 static burn on October 24th at 321 bar (4650 psi), at which point the engine produced 245 tonnes of thrust before shutting down.


Musk states that Raptor 2 prototypes are currently operating above 300 bar without any issues, suggesting they can ignite and safely shut down after several minutes of burning at high pressures.


Raptor 2's maximum chamber pressure is 300 bar, which indicates that the engine is now "routinely" operating at the level SpaceX intends and requires to propel the Starship into the next stage of its development.

 



It's probable that SpaceX still has one or more months of work to go before the first Raptor 2 engines can be certified for the first Starship or Super Heavy prototypes that will use the new machine. There are still some concerns, but the first two months of testing for SpaceX's Raptor 2 are pretty encouraging.

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