Elon Musk, the tech billionaire behind SpaceX, has unveiled a new generation of rockets he says will take humanity to Mars.
While SpaceX might be at the most challenging point in its history, suffering another rocket failure this month, it has not stopped Musk pushing ahead with his plan to turn Mars into a ‘backup drive’ for humanity. Musk has repeatedly argue colonisation is the only way to ensure humanities future if something catastrophic were to happen to Earth.
Musk is set to reveal more information about his plans today at 2:30pm EDT during the 67th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara, Mexico but has ahead of that highly anticipated speech he shared images of a powerful rocket engine dubbed Raptor that will act as the “Interplanetary Transport System” (ITS) for his efforts to reach Mars.
SpaceX propulsion just achieved first firing of the Raptor interplanetary transport engine pic.twitter.com/vRleyJvBkx
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 26, 2016
Musk claims this is the first test-firing of the device and shows a static fire test (this is when Engineers connect the cone-shaped rocket engine to a fuel source, ignite it, and push it to the very limits to measure performance).
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Speculation is now rife as to what the rocket is burning, but an educated guess would suggest a mix of methane burned with liquid oxygen similar to SpaceX’s Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) engine.
While the images are intended to be a teaser in the run up to Musk’s speech, a few details were disclosed. Musk also wrote on Twitter that the “production Raptor goal is specific impulse of 382 seconds and thrust of 3 MN (~310 metric tonnes) at 300 bars” and that “chamber pressure is almost 3X Merlin, so the engine is about the same size for a given area ratio.”
This would mean that the Raptor would be capable of producing 675,000 pounds (306,175 kilogrammes) of thrust. Three times more power than SpaceX’s Falcon 9’s Merlin engines.
Previous configurations of launchers from SpaceX have seen clusters of Falcon thrusters attached to a multi-stage rocket – it is assumed that the Raptor would work in a similar way.
Other than that few details of what Musk will announce later today are known. However, the event will be live streamed from Guadalajara on Youtube (below).
The speech will start Sept. 27 at 2:30 p.m. EDT (19:30 GMT).
IAC’s event description reads:
“[D]uring a special keynote entitled “Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species”, Musk will discuss the long-term technical challenges that need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars. The technical presentation will focus on potential architectures for colonising the Red Planet that industry, government and the scientific community can collaborate on in the years ahead.”