SpaceX - Rocket Engines

Rocket Engines

Since the founding of SpaceX in 2002, the company has developed three families of rocket engines — Merlin and Kestrel for launch vehicle propulsion, and the Draco RCS control thrusters. SpaceX is currently under development of two more rocket engines: SuperDraco and Raptor.

In a June 2009 AIAA presentation, a conceptual plan for the Raptor project was unveiled. As of 2012, information was released to the public that Raptor is a higher performance Methane/LOX rocket engine, not an upper stage, and that SpaceX is undertaking a substantial new rocket engine development program for Methane-based engines. When the project originally surfaced, and very little public information was released, "Raptor" was at that time a LOX/liquid hydrogen second stage concept for Falcon 9.

Longer term projects under study include the much larger Merlin 2 engine. The Merlin 2 may be used on conceptual heavy-lift launch vehicles Falcon X, Falcon X Heavy, and Falcon XX.

In October 2012, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk publicly announced concept work on a rocket engine that would be "several times as powerful as the 1 Merlin series, and won't use Merlin's RP-1 fuel". Elon Musk declined to provide details at that time, but did indicate details would be forthcoming "sometime next year"(2013). The engine is intended for a new SpaceX rocket, using multiple of those large engines, and would notionally launch payload masses of the order of 150 to 200 tonnes (150,000 to 200,000 kg) to low-Earth orbit, exceeding the payload mass capability of the NASA Space Launch System.

In November 2012, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced a new direction for propulsion side of the company: developing methane/LOX rocket engines for launch vehicle main and upper stages.

While this may result in a family of methane-based engines, what has been released to date indicates that one of these will be an upper stage engine designated Raptor.

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