SpaceX Is About to Start Testing the Rocket Engine That’s Going to Mars

by Kastalia Medrano

A series of reports indicate SpaceX is revving up the engine for its Mars-bound rocket for testing in the coming months. The Raptor, an engine three times more powerful than the one currently driving Falcon 9, looks like it’s en route to McGregor, Texas for “developmental tests,” according to Ars Technica.

The Raptor won’t power the Falcon 9, or even the company’s “next generation” rocket, the Falcon Heavy (which will be the largest rocket in existence when it finally debuts later this year).

Instead, the Raptor will probably be incorporated within the rocketry architecture for the Mars Colonial Transporter. In a Reddit AMA last year, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk described the Raptor engine as having a thrust of about 230 metric tons, or around 500,000 lbs. He’s generally a bit cagey with details, but might give us more info in Mexico this fall, where he’s expected to provide bigger details about the company’s plans to fly to Mars.

Manned missions to Mars are the ultimate goal for many private spaceflight companies, but SpaceX has distinguished itself in recent months with its series of successful Falcon 9 launches and landings. Even Blue Origin, arguably its closest competitor at the beginning of the year, has fallen out of the spotlight as SpaceX racks up win after win. The progression of the tests the Raptor engine is currently undergoing shows Musk definitely isn’t slowing down.