Elon Musk has had his eye on Mars for a while, and now his company SpaceX is finally testing it’s new engine that will make his dreams a reality. The goal is to send a rocket to Mars in 2018, if they succeed, they will be the first private company to ever reach another planet.
Their new rocket is called the Raptor and it’s expected to be three times as powerful as Merlin, the current engine that powers the Falcon 9 rocket. It will have 250 tons of thrust, which is about the same as the main engines of the space shuttle. A cluster of nine of these rockets will be used on the Mars Colonial transporter, and not on the Red Dragon which will go to Mars, according to Musk, in 2018.
The announcement that the company has shipped the Raptor to its testing facility in McGregor, Texas was mentioned at the Small Satellite Conference by SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell. This is good news for the ambitious space mission because full-scale testing is usually at the end of the technology development phase.
— C. G. Niederstrasser (@RocketScient1st) August 9, 2016
Although Musk has stated previously that he founded SpaceX to start a human colony on Mars, there are no details on what the 2018 mission is supposed to do. It might have a scientific goal, or it could be just a demonstration that SpaceX has the technology to explore the Solar System. Musk has stated before that the goal is to be able to create a stable permanent supply cycle that would arrive at Mars every 2 years. If that can be done, it would allow humans to colonize Mars with a base which would be supplied by this supply chain.
NASA has announced that it will help Musk’s company in exchange for information on the mission. Any data will be important, for the space agency’s journey to Mars, which aims to have astronauts on the red planet in the 2030s.
The rocket testing is not the only good news for the space company. SpaceX has successfully completed its sixth barge landing.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) August 14, 2016