After rechristening its Mars Colonial Transporter the Interplanetary Transport System, SpaceX has revealed it's now testing the engines that will go inside this rocket at a facility in Texas.
SpaceX founder, Elon Musk, tweeted images of the test on September 25 which depicted streams of flame coming from the engine as well as Mach diamonds, which are wave patterns visible in a supersonic exhaust plume.
There hasn't been much solid information on the specifications of the Raptor released previously, other than it's several times more powerful than the Merlin engine series (one of the first attempts from SpaceX) and will use liquid methane rather than kerosene.
In his tweets, though, Musk provided a few extra details, stating that the goal is for the engine to achieve a thrust of "3 MN ( 310 metric tons) at 300 bar."
Close to liftoff?
There's been a fair amount of activity coming from SpaceX recently, as Musk gears up to make his keynote speech at the International Astronautical Congress on September 27 titled "Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species."
It's expected that in this speech Musk will give greater detail on SpaceX's plans for a manned mission to Mars. At the moment, SpaceX is aiming to have its crewed mission take place in 2024 with unmanned preparatory missions beginning in 2018.
After a few recent setbacks it makes sense that Musk would want to showcase the progress he and his team are making before he takes to the stage to detail the mission's ambitious schedule.