SpaceX begins building its next Super Heavy rocket prototype - with 33 Raptor engines

Despite complaints and lawsuits from Blue Origin and Jeff Bezos’ Amazon, Elon Musk’s SpaceX continues to actively develop the ambitious Starship interplanetary spacecraft project and prepares for its first orbital flight. This week, a team of engineers working on prototyping rockets at Starbase in Texas rolled out a structure for the potential first 33-engine Super Heavy booster.

The Super Heavy rocket is a classic first stage and will only be used to launch the next-generation Starship spacecraft from Earth and possibly future floating spaceports for sea launch. In March, SpaceX completed assembly of the first 70-meter Super Heavy BH1 booster. to evaluate the process of creating and transporting such a gigantic structure, and in June, SpaceX had the next Booster 3 prototype ready, which had previously been fired with three Raptor methane-oxygen engines and is now preparing for its first orbital launch.

On October 5, at the SpaceX cosmodrome in Texas, where all the main work on the project is underway, they noticed a new support washer – this is a structure on the bottom of the tank that serves as a place for attaching Raptor engines. Presumably, it is intended for the Super Heavy B6 and marks another significant change.

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In the spring, the head of SpaceX Elon Musk said that Super Heavy will first receive 29 Raptor engines, but by the end of this year they plan to increase their number to 32 pieces. We also saw unofficial render of the layout of 32 Super Heavy engines, which Musk himself called quite accurate.

The latest thrust washer expands the outer ring to ten motors and the inner group to three motors for a total of 13 Raptor motors. Combined with a ring of 20 fixed Raptor Boost (RB) engines mounted on the inside of the Super Heavy skirt, the 13-engine washer will allow SpaceX to accommodate up to 33 engines on Super Heavy boosters.

The Super Heavy accelerator with 33 first-generation Raptor engines will be able to deliver up to 6,100 metric tons of thrust at launch. But with the release of Raptor 2, this figure will increase to 7,600 metric tons – more than double the current record holder in the face of the famous NASA Saturn V rocket.

Last month, the American regulator FAA published a draft version of the mandatory Environmental Assessment at SpaceX’s proposal to conduct Starship orbital launches from the Starbase launch pad in Texas. Public discussions will last until October 18, after which a decision will be made. So far, everything goes to the fact that SpaceX will be able to conduct the first orbital launch of Starship by the end of this year.

After commissioning, the Super Heavy + Starship system, designed to deliver cargo and people to low-earth orbit, the Moon and Mars, will become the most powerful and lifting system in the entire history of space exploration. The rocket will be capable of delivering a cargo weighing up to 150 tons in a fully reusable configuration with the return of both stages (Super Heavy and Starship) to Earth, as well as the possibility of docking and refueling in orbit.

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