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Elon Musk unveils the engine that he hopes will take SpaceX to Mars

Reuters/Stephen Lam
The Musk stamp of approval
  • Tim Fernholz
By Tim Fernholz

Senior reporter

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

A day before he plans to reveal the architecture of his “interplanetary transportation system,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk offered his Twitter followers a preview—the results of the first firing of the Raptor engine that will drive the system:

“Mach diamonds,” by the way, are the term for the little pattern you can see forming in the rocket’s exhaust, caused by the behavior of fluids moving faster than the speed of sound.

According to Musk’s tweets, the production version of the engine will be more powerful than the new engines being built by Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin, which recently announced its own new rocket plans.

Musk is expected to discuss the technology needed for SpaceX to reach Mars at the International Astronautical Congress this week in Guadalajara, Mexico. The speech comes at a tricky time for Musk, however: A SpaceX rocket recently caught fire and was destroyed during fuelling, an accident that is expected to delay the company’s work for NASA and its commercial clients. NASA officials have quietly wondered whether Musk’s team is too distracted by their long-term goals.

But without Mars looming, SpaceX likely wouldn’t exist or succeed. So we’ll have to hope for a compelling pitch tomorrow.

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