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SpaceX's first spacecraft suffers from "expected" failures during a Raptor test



SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk says the first full-size star engine to be tested has already been pushed to the point of failure less than three weeks after the start of the campaign, setting the scene for the second full-length Raptor to take over management. In the near future.

According to Musk, while most of the damaged components of Raptor still have to be easy to use, the installation of the second finisher engine is "almost complete" and that Raptor will take the test in the near future rather than wait for the first engine to be repaired. This is undoubtedly an extremely aggressive test program, especially for such a new and modern rocket propulsion system, but these latest developments are ultimately far more encouraging than they do.

Integrated submerged static fire back in September 2016, the SpaceX team completed the Raptor's main design and completed installation, delivery and built-in static fire on the first full-fledged engine on February 3, significantly less than three weeks before Musk entered Twitter. In addition to confirming that the new Raptor was damaged during its last static fire several days before, Musk points out that the damage (not surprisingly) is mainly due to reaching the highest pressure in the camera.

Raptor's main fuel chamber (slightly above the nozzle) is designed to operate in nominal and reliable way to withstand extra-high pressures of 250+ bar (3600+ psi), a performance that requires even higher pressures in components that deliver hot methane gas and oxygen in Raptor's combustion chamber. One of the examples, reminiscent of Musk in tweet 2018, is the oxygen buffer used to convert a liquid propellant into a high-velocity gas which can then deliver a special oxygen turbine pump. Besides the absurdly corrosive environment created by extremely hot gaseous oxygen, the trowel has to survive under a pressure that can reach 800+ bar or 12,000 psi. test the Raptor at an incredible speed. (SpaceX)

The lack of technical details means that it is difficult to understand what is the pressure of the thrust or main chamber Musk had in mind when referring to the exotic alloys that would be needed to survive in these pressures, but Raptor's performance statistics with a 800+ bar prediction will probably outperform anything that Musk has described so far suggesting that Raptor might not have been pushed to these levels of productivity yet, remote opportunity. It is more likely that the 800+ bar in the oxygen buffer is an extreme goal that will achieve consistent research, development and optimization, with Raptor suffered damage somewhere below these levels while still achieving eye performance. Elton Musk (@elonmusk) February 4, 2019

For such a complex engine as Raptor, there are countless dozens of potential failures that will be a little surprise for engine for only a few days in full scale testing. Above all, Raptor's test schedule, supported by the SpaceX team for world-class drives – whether motivated or driven by reckless management via a spreadsheet – is dynamic in extreme conditions by taking the first Raptor from a standstill to more than 90% pressure and camera pressure of nearly 270 bar (3900 psi) in – literally – less than a week. More than half a dozen static fire tests (in the range of 1-10 seconds) were performed over the same period of time.

Within a few days of this February 10th event, when Raptor reached a camera pressure comparable to the most advanced modern engines (namely RD-180/190/191), the engine was obviously pushed dramatically, still high, reaching chamber pressure (and thus thrust), which has caused damage to some of the more sensitive parts of the engine's plumbing system. Regardless of the fact that Raptor's second production is already "almost over", Musk suggests changes (with unknown gravity) to mitigate the failures experienced by Raptor SN01. In an industry where NASA and contractors such as Aerojet-Rocketdyne will spend months between static space shuttle engine fire tests that have literally multiple fields (if not) dozens of orbital missions and demonstrated performance and reliability metrics that are measured in hundreds of thousands of seconds, the speed and flexibility of SpaceX's Raptor development and testing program are breathtaking. What remains to be seen is how comparable and reliable the final results will be (ie Raptor operating), but the attitude that actively accepts and even pursues testing to destruction can ultimately only serve the benefit of the ultimate product at the cost of destroyed hardware.

Given the immense success of the MerX engine family of SpaceX and the aggressive strategy for development and continuous improvement that brought it from Merlin 1A to 1D and MVacD, SpaceX clearly did not get around. in the dark when it comes to Raptor R & D.


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