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SpaceX slow-motion video shows powerful Raptor rocket engine shutting down

SpaceX has shared dramatic slow-motion footage showing a Raptor engine powering down at the end of a recent test fire.

“Shutdown of a Raptor vacuum engine in slow motion,” SpaceX said in a message accompanying the video (below). It added that the engine’s nozzle “is sized for use by Starship in the Earth’s upper atmosphere and outer space, so operation at sea level and low chamber pressures results in flow separation creating visible rings in the exhaust.”

Shutdown of a Raptor vacuum engine in slow motion. The engine’s nozzle is sized for use by Starship in the Earth’s upper atmosphere and outer space, so operation at sea level and low chamber pressures results in flow separation creating visible rings in the exhaust pic.twitter.com/1Z42WIRnX7

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 10, 2024

SpaceX doesn’t say by how much the footage has been slowed, but the detail visible in the exhaust suggests that it’s playing at way below the real speed.

As SpaceX mentioned, the Raptor engines power the Starship spacecraft, which is currently under development. The Starship spacecraft has six engines — three Raptor engines for landing on Earth or another planet, and three Raptor Vacuum (RVac) engines for use in the vacuum of space, one of which features in the video.

The Super Heavy rocket, which carries the spacecraft to orbit, is powered by 33 Raptor engines that together create a colossal — and record-breaking — 17 millions pounds of thrust at launch. The engines themselves are powered by cryogenic liquid methane and liquid oxygen. You can see the Raptors in action during the Super Heavy’s second test launch, which took place in December ahead of its most recent flight in March.

The Raptor engines are more powerful than the Merlin engines used by SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket. The increased power is required for the kind of missions that SpaceX wants to use the Super Heavy and Starship for once the testing phase is complete. These include transporting cargo and crew to the moon as part of NASA’s Artemis program, and may even involve more ambitious missions, such as the first crewed flight to Mars, which could take place in the 2030s.

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Trevor Mogg
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