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As part of its testing campaign for the STarship launch vehicle platform, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) melted yet another rocket engine at its facilities in McGregor, Texas. SpaceX's Starship uses the company's Raptor 2 rocket engines that are more powerful than the Merlin 1D engines used by the company on its Falcon 9 rocket and they have been designed and manufactured exclusively by the company for its new rocket. Starship is built in Boca Chica, Texas and SpaceX tests its engines in McGregor before shipping it out to the rocket's site. The test, captured by videojournalists, is not the first time that SpaceX has pushed an engine to its limits, as the firm is known for testing its equipment to extreme levels in order to understand its performance.
SpaceX Continues To Push Its Raptor 2 Engines To Extreme Levels As Starship Prepares For Orbital Test Flight
SpaceX's Raptor 2 engines use copper components for several of their internal structures, particularly those that are involved with the high pressure combustion of methane and liquid oxygen. Since copper turns green as it melts, green smoke coming from a Raptor engine is an accurate indicator of whether the engine malfunctioned accidentally or deliberately.
One such occurrence took place back in January this year when YouTuber Adam Cuker captured one of the first live video feeds of a Raptor 2 engine melting during a testing run. This run took place at the night and on a horizontal test stand at SpaceX's facilities in McGregor. It came at a time when the company was yet to transport a Starship rocket booster to its facilities in Boca Chica, and surrounding it were unverified rumors that SpaceX was struggling with the engine's internal combustion chamber as it tried to increase the pressure.
Now, Cuker who has since been scooped up by NASASpaceflight, is back again with another Raptor 2 engine that was tested beyond its limits.
Another Raptor 2 test on the Tripod Stand at SpaceX in McGregor, TX. This one ended with a green flame. Potentially a development engine pushed to its limits.
— Adam Cuker (@AdamCuker) August 24, 2022
This time, the Raptor 2 was tested on a vertical test stand sometime earlier this week, and more footage from NASASpacelfight shows that it has been a busy week for SpaceX as it tested its Raptor 2 engines and a Falcon 9 booster.
Like the test from January, this engine was not so lucky either, with the images showing the dreaded plume of green flames at the bottom, which indicates that its combustion chamber or other components were unable to bear the stress of testing. However, the flames might not be a bad thing, since SpaceX has successfully tested the same engines on its Starship Super Heavy Booster 7 and Ship 24 prototypes, and it is more likely that if there was a problem then it is isolated to this engine or SpaceX simply pushed a test prototype beyond its limits to understand what stress points are present in the system and whether they will be a threat to future missions.
SpaceX will use 33 engines to launch the Starship rocket, and right now the Booster 7 with these engines is at the orbital launch mount in Texas for more tests. After an accident earlier this year, SpaceX shipped the booster back to its testing facilities and then shipped it back to the mount to test one engine. This test was successful, SpaceX then installed more engines on the Booster and then lifted it on the launch pad earlier this week. Since then, the company has tested more of its engines, alongside conducting similar tests for the upper stage Ship 24 prototype.
The latest testing campaign will end in a highly anticipated Starship orbital test flight, which might involve the booster and spacecraft that are currently being tested. This launch will be for America, and the world's, largest rocket to date, as SpaceX gears up for the next phase in its journey to launch crewed missions to Mars.
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