SpaceX Successfully Fires up Starship's First Raptor Vacuum Engine

The news brings Starship one step closer to heading into orbit.
Fabienne Lang
Raptor vacuumSpaceX/Twitter

SpaceX has been in full swing lately, and more exciting news has emerged. 

Yesterday, Elon Musk posted on Twitter that Starship's first Raptor Vacuum engine, or RVac, "completed a full duration test fire." This comes just three weeks after the engine was hauled to SpaceX's Texas testing site. 

This means that orbital test flights may be next up on the agenda. 


Mixing raptors

When SpaceX's Starship spacecraft heads into orbit, it'll manage to do so thanks to a concoction of Raptor engines. It will be clad with three sea-level Raptors, and three Raptor Vacuum engines, per Teslarati.

Raptor Vacuum engines are almost completely based off of the sea-level ones. Both types of engines use complex turbomachinery and combustion chambers. Where they differ, however, is from the part under the combustion chamber. For the Raptor Vacuum engines, SpaceX has increased the existing bell nozzle fivefold.

SpaceX Successfully Fires up Starship's First Raptor Vacuum Engine
The RVac and sea-level Raptor with a human for scale. Source: SpaceX/Twitter

The reason for adding Raptor Vacuum engines is that they provide more footholds to push against compared with regular Raptor engines.

Musk's post on Twitter has left a few in the lurch, as it's unclear what he means by "full duration" in this case. If we look at past Starship full duration orbital insertion burns, for instance, these last at least five or six minutes. 

Given long-lasting Raptor burns are the main hurdle before Starship can be launched into orbit, it would be surprising indeed if this "full duration test fire" had lasted several minutes. 

What may have most likely happened is that this "full duration test fire" managed to successfully see the Raptor Vacuum switch on, burn, and switch off on schedule. If this were the case, it would be a great milestone in itself. 

As previously mentioned, SpaceX has been forging forward and reaching goals lately. It set off for Super Heavy Booster assembly earlier this month and successfully completed a 492-feet hop of its Starship prototype.

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