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SpaceX begins tests on the rocket that will take humans to Mars


SpaceX set to put their new Raptor engine through its paces and keeps an eye on landing a human on Mars in 2024.


SpaceX’s company president, Gwynne Shotwell has just announced that the company is inching closer to realising it’s CEO, Elon Musk’s ambitious plans to land a rocket on Mars by sending it’s next generation rocket engine, the one that it intends to use to ferry goods and people back and forth between Earth and the red planet, to its McGregor, Texas facility for testing.


Video: SpaceX Raptor preview, courtesy Ti

While the company hasn’t revealed much about the engine yet we do know it’s called the “Raptor” and that it will be used to power the Falcon 9 Heavy’s successor – the reusable rocket that SpaceX has been building and testing for the past few years for its Mars Colonial Transporter project. but in a Reddit AMA a little while ago Musk told audiences that the new engine would be capable of producing over 500,000 pounds of thrust, making it twice as powerful as the engines it uses on its Falcon 9 and Heavy rockets, putting it on par with the Space Shuttle.


Inside SpaceX's mission to Mars


Musk and Shotwell expect the new Raptor powered rocket to be able to lift off with a spacecraft that’s 100 times the size of an SUV and carry up to 100 tons of cargo which will be an important bonus given the long journey times to and from Mars and given the new rockets capabilities it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility that this is the rocket that SpaceX will use to pre-stock Mars for an eventual manned landing in 2024. Furthermore, for all those sceptics out there that we’ll be landing on Mars in 2024 the timing of this new announcement would make that landing look more likely especially when you realise that rocket engine development can take up to seven years and that full scale testing typically happens towards the end of its development.

It’s still unclear what kind of tests the company will do in Texas, though so I guess we’ll just have to wait for the update Shotwell promised to reveal in the next few months.

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