SpaceX has shown off the first test firing of the built-for-flight Raptor engine for the Starship super-rocket. CEO of the space exploration startup, Elon Musk celebrated the milestone by posting some pretty impressive videos on Twitter. “So proud of great work by @SpaceX team,” Musk wrote in a series of tweets from SpaceX test facility near McGregor, Texas.
Smaller scale tests of the methane-fueled Raptor rocket engine have been happening for the last two years but today's test was the “first firing of Starship Raptor flight engine.” The tweeted video sent SpaceX fans into a flurry with many taking to Twitter and Reddit to analyze what was going on — even going as far as to debate what each of the colors in the flames meant.
The Raptor engine is the successor of the Merlin engine that has powered SpaceX’s efforts to date and is the essential component of the Starship Super Heavy (SSH), a massive passenger vessel and rocket system that Elon Musk hopes will not only bring people to Mars but possibly bring them back as well.
Exciting!— Daniel Davis (@DanielDavisA) February 4, 2019
Can you explain why we are seeing so many different colors and what each means?
The SSH is the culmination of one of Elon Musk’s original dream for SpaceX that is to create a spacecraft powerful enough to make human-crewed missions to Mars. Musk was reportedly motivated in part to start SpaceX after NASA continued to delay the mission to Mars.
SpaceX determined to make humans interplanetary
NASA, of course, has been plagued by budgetary restraints for years; it’s budget being heavily reduced by successive governments. Musk hopes to inspire some of the awe and glamour associated with the Space Race of the 1960s. His plan to make earth ‘interplanetary’ relies heavily on the success of the SSH.
The powerful Raptor is essential to the possible return aspect of a trip to Mars. The engine is fuelled by a mix of Oxygen and Methane, both elements that are likely able to be able to be sourced locally on the red planet, making a return trip possible.