2 of SpaceX’s latest engines exploded on a test bench in a row

(ORDO NEWS) — Elon Musk’s space company is sometimes jokingly called a pyrotechnic company – so often its products explode during tests.

A couple of recent incidents at the test site in the city of McGregor only confirm this glory. Astronautics fans did not have time to establish an online broadcast from this location, as they captured two explosions in a row at once with an interval of only tens of hours.

First, an unplanned (or unforeseen) rapid disassembly ( RUD – rapid unscheduled/unplanned/unexpected disassembly ) occurred on May 9th.

The Raptor engine only lasted four seconds on a vertical stand at SpaceX’s test facility near McGregor, Texas. The second “pop” was heard in less than a day already on a horizontal stand and also almost immediately after ignition.

The company does not comment on the incidents. They became known to the public solely thanks to the round-the-clock online broadcast of the team of astronautics fans NASASpaceFlight.

Near the testing facility at McGregor, the community’s cameras appeared less than a month ago and have already produced spectacular catches.

Frames with explosions cut from the stream were published, for example, on the Reddit Internet forum in the SpaceX Lounge section ( 1 , 2 ) and in the unofficial SpaceX group on the VKontakte social network ( 1 , 2 ).

Since there is still no explanation for the incidents from company representatives or Elon Musk himself, all possible versions are just speculation.

The most likely option is that we simply witnessed SpaceX ‘s proprietary approach , according to which each new development is tested to its limit.

Now work is underway on the second version of the Raptor engines , serial copies of which have already demonstrated the ability to deliver about 230 tons of thrust.

In the future, this figure should increase by another ten or two percent due to an increase in pressure in the combustion chamber, significantly more than 300 bar.

Achieving such high values ​​requires the engines to work at the limit of the capabilities of the materials and technical solutions used. Probably, the engineers found weaknesses and either a milestone beyond which they could not step, or a direction for further improvements.

In favor of the “normality” of what happened is the fact that work at the McGregor test site continues at the same pace. The number of tests does not even think to decrease, which is convincingly proved by the public online broadcast.

According to an alternative version (where without it) – SpaceX is doing badly. Especially considering the unusual color of the cloud of smoke after the explosions.

The company is now preparing for the first orbital launch of its new Starship rocket and space reusable system and it needs engines (39 units for the first and second stages).

Therefore, the “burning” of the Raptor 2 is proceeding at a Stakhanovite pace, and two explosions at once indicate that the units are not fulfilling their task.

The idea is that in preparation for such an important event, followed by certification of the rocket for regular launches, no one will spend resources on experiments with less urgent developments.

Recall that the main project of SpaceX at the present time – Starship – is a fully reusable carrier with a target payload of more than 100 tons. The first ( Super Heavy booster ) and second ( Starship ) stages use Raptor oxymethane engines.

Their first version was installed on prototypes for atmospheric test flights and on a rocket originally scheduled for the first orbital launch planned for last year. However, now the second version is being produced, work is underway on the third.

These engines have several key features in comparison with the power plants previously used in astronautics. First, the cycle is closed with complete gasification of the components.

Secondly, the Raptor is designed to be as easy to manufacture as possible in order to reduce the cost and make it as mass-produced as possible.

Finally, thirdly, and most importantly: they must be not just reusable, but not requiring complex after-flight maintenance. As far as we know, the Raptor 2 already meets most of the requirements set for them and is currently improving their traction characteristics.

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