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SpaceX's Raptor Engine Hits Power Level for Starship Launches, Elon Musk Says

raptor
A photograph of a test Raptor engine firing, tweeted by Elon Musk on Feb. 7, 2019. (Image credit: Elon Musk/SpaceX/Twitter)

A test fire of SpaceX's newest engine reached the power level necessary for the company's next round of rocket designs, CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter.

"Raptor just achieved power level needed for Starship & Super Heavy," he tweeted on Feb. 7, four days after he shared a photograph of the first test of a flight-ready engine.

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The Raptor engine is designed to power the spaceship currently known as Starship as part of the rocket assembly currently known as Super Heavy (previously dubbed the BFR). The first Raptor test fire took place in September 2016, when the company was targeting an uncrewed Mars launch in 2018.

Three Raptor engines like this one are built in to the Starship Hopper, which has been under construction in Texas and which SpaceX will use to begin testing the rocket technology in real life.

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Eventually, SpaceX plans to assemble 31 Raptor engines into the Super Heavy rockets, with another seven Raptors on the Starship itself. The engines are fueled by a mix of liquid methane and liquid oxygen and are about twice as powerful as those aboard the Merlin engines currently flying in the company's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy engines.

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Meghan Bartels

Meghan is a senior writer at Space.com and has more than five years' experience as a science journalist based in New York City. She joined Space.com in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.