SpaceX Tests New Rocket Engine For Mars Mission

Andrew Follett | Energy and Science Reporter

SpaceX successfully tested its new rocket engine that will launch the company’s planned interplanetary spaceship, according to a series of tweets from the company’s CEO Elon Musk.

Musk is developing the rocket engine for  SpaceX’s so-called Interplanetary Transport System (ITS), which he said would be capable of traveling beyond Mars in a Tuesday speech in Mexico City. He plans to send a manned spacecraft to Mars and start colonization within a decade.

Musk has previously described the new engine as working similarly to the engines that propelled NASA’s space shuttles, stating that it will be considerably more efficient than the current Merlin engines used by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

Space X and other companies have been competing to develop fully reusable rocket engines to slash the cost of going to space. SpaceX’s President Gwynne Shotwell previously estimated reusing rockets could cause a 30 percent reduction in launch costs.

Blue Origin, a private space company set up by founder Jeff Bezos, successfully launched and recovered the first reusable rocket last November. SpaceXfailed on two separate occasions to successfully land a reusable rocket; Musk called the failure a “huge blow.”

SpaceX has had several rockets explode during landing attempts. It took nearly six months before Falcon 9 launches were resumed after SpaceX’s last launch failure. Musk’s business rivals have estimated that it could take up to a full year for SpaceX to resume launches. The company says it plans to return to space in November.

Musk has repeatedly stated that the ITS the rocket booster is designed for will be capable of sending about 10 people to Mars to establish a colony. In time, Musk thinks such an outpost could grow into something much larger and become self-sustaining, housing at least one million people. It would only take 40 to 100 years to achieve a self-sustaining civilization on Mars, he explained. Animations shown by SpaceX during the presentation even suggest that the company plans to start terraforming Mars, making it more Earth-like.

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Tags : elon musk national aeronautics and space administration space shuttle spacex
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