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Elon Musk shares sneak peek at SpaceX Raptor engine test firing for a shot at the moon

By Benjamin Bullard
SpaceX Raptor Engine via official site 2019

There’s a kind of giddy energy that surrounds Elon Musk’s SpaceX ambitions. Each of his social media updates seems to up the ante on what to expect from the company’s high-soaring goals, and this newest one finds the tech maverick (literally) fired up.

Less than a month after taking the wraps off a Starship rocket prototype that shines just as bright as The Phantom Menace’s Naboo Royal Starship, Musk has just shared a handful of sneak peeks at the nimble little engine that’ll be powering it all...and it looks like this Raptor has serious claws:

Musk didn’t say exactly when the test fire footage was taken, but last week he shared a photo of someone standing next to the long-developing engine, which gives a sense of the Raptor’s size.

Significantly overhauled last year, the Raptor is meant to trade old-school, 1960s-era size for greater numbers — and greater flexibility. CNET reports that the company’s planned 2023 moon mission will enlist seven engines, while the more distant Mars trip could require 31 of these fire-spitting thrusters.

Even though the test firing propels the Raptor around the corner past the proof of concept stage, Musk acknowledged there’s still plenty of engineering kinks to be ironed out, tweeting that future versions will test other configurations aimed at optimizing thrust both in space and at sea level.

Whether it’s a mirror-dazzling Starship rocket that screams “sci-fi movie” while only whispering “NASA,” or a teenager’s enthusiasm for watching this Raptor engine light up for the public for the first time, SpaceX always delivers its science with a dollop of geeky fun on top.

With Starship’s first moon orbit scheduled to take Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa into space only four short years from now, here’s hoping Musk will have plenty of reasons to share more killer updates before the Raptor finally powers its payload off the launchpad.