Elon Musk’s SpaceX Tunes Up Raptor Engine Prior to Mars Launch

Aug 11, 2016 12:20 PM EDT | Rubi Valdez

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SpaceX's next-generation engine Raptor is up for testing as Elon Musks's space team together with NASA gear up for the Mars mission to be launched late this year or early 2017. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell confirmed the news on Tuesday during the Small Satellite Conference in Logan, Utah.

Ars Technica reported the Raptor engine could be at least three times more powerful than the Merlin engines that powered the Falcon 9 rocket. The new engine is said to power Falcon Heavy dubbed as the Mars Colonial Transporter.

Musk said the engine has a capacity of 500,000 pounds of thrust similar to that of the space shuttle's main engine. The main shuttle, on one hand, is powered by three large engines and two booster rockets. However, other reports said Falcon Heavy will use nine Raptor engines at the same time.

The development of the engine is part of Musk's mission to build a human colony on the Red Planet starting 2020. The company has plans on sending an unmanned space shuttle equipped with supersonic retropropulsion technology beginning 2018. More details will be made available to the public on September 26 at the International Astronautical Conference in Mexico.

Scientists said the development of the Raptor engine is a validation that the probability of Musk's vision is highly likely. Meanwhile, the FAA is now issuing permits to private companies for space travel, reported Inquisitr.

"The months-long journey is sure to be hard, risky, dangerous, and difficult, [but] just as with the establishment of the English colonies, there are people who love that. They want to be the pioneers," said Musk.

The Mars exploration is in partnership with NASA's NextStep, a collaboration of different corporations dedicated to accomplish different aspects of the program. Boeing is tasked in developing the prototypes for the Mars colonization initiative including its design, analysis, testing, and demonstration.

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