SpaceX adds at least four extra methane engines to Super Heavy rocket stage

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SpaceX will equip the lower stage of the Starship rocket with at least four extra methane engines. The rocket, which should enable space travel to Mars and replace the Falcon rockets, was already the most powerful rocket ever on paper before its addition.

Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, says on Twitter that brings the total number of Raptor engines to 41. That number is made up of six for the upper rocket stage, the Starship spacecraft, and 35 engines for the lower rocket stage, the Super Heavy. This booster was originally supposed to have 31 engines. Why SpaceX decided to add more Raptor rocket engines is not clear.

Incidentally, more than four additional engines may eventually be added; Musk is now talking about an optional configuration of 37 engines for the SuperHeavy. With the six of the Starship, the total number of Raptor engines then comes to 43.

The company will provide an update on the current state of Starship and Super Heavy shortly after the relatively small Starship prototype Starhopper flew without cable for the first time. That should have happened last week, but then a huge fireball arose during a static fire test. According to Musk was a fuel leak, but has the prototype thanks to its stainless steel construction no major damage sustained.

With the extra engines for the Super Heavy stage, the total thrust is about twice that of the Saturn V rocket or NASA’s Space Launch System. The thrust is so great that a separate launch pad for the Starship rocket is being built anyway; platform 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which has launched Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets since 2014, probably wouldn’t last a launch of the new rocket. The rocket is scheduled to make a tourist flight around the moon in 2023.

The Starship rocket will reach a height of roughly 118 meters, making it longer than Saturn V. The second stage, the spacecraft, will come in at least three versions: a passenger spaceship, a tanker with fuel for refueling in space, and a version that can accommodate satellites. Both stairs must be able to land vertically for reuse. For these landings, landing legs are integrated into the tail fins.

The Raptor engines to be used are based on methane, which is cleaner than kerosene when burned. This makes the substance not only more environmentally friendly, but also more suitable for the reuse of the engines, since much less soot remains in the rocket engines with methane. According to Musk, the Raptor engines are used a thousand times with a negligible amount of maintenance. Methane has a number of other advantages compared to hydrogen and kerosene, although Musk will not be dissatisfied with the fact that methane is theoretically much better to produce on Mars than kerosene or oil. This fits well with his vision of a base on Mars, where reusable Starships can be refueled after the vertical landing and can take off again.

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