Elon Musk Says Falcon 9's Merlin Is Simpler Than Starship's Raptor: Here's Why

Tesla Inc TSLA and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Sunday the privately-held space company’s Merlin engine that powers the reusable Falcon 9 rocket is simpler than the more powerful, bigger, and under development Starship's Raptor engine.

What Happened: The billionaire entrepreneur compared the Falcon 9’s workhorse Merlin engine's early design decisions and other details in an interaction with space channel Every Astronaut on YouTube.

“Merlin D was higher thrust, more efficiency, and is easier to build. It certainly gives you a sense for how much simpler this engine is than Raptor is mostly what I was getting at,” Musk said.

“Just having a single shaft turbo pump, only one turbine, having the inducer and the impeller be a single piece is just dramatically simpler than Raptor.” 

See Also: Elon Musk Says SpaceX's Starship Orbital Likely In May Despite Pending Regulatory Approval: Here's Why

Merlin Vs Raptor: SpaceX currently uses the Merlin-1C engine for the Falcon 9. The rocket regularly helps ferry astronauts to the International Space Station as well as delivers satellite payloads to earth’s low orbit. 

SpaceX is also currently building 39 flight-worthy Raptor 2 engines that would power the reusable, 400-foot tall Starship rocket.

Musk has said that Starship rockets are capable of ferrying “230 ton or ~500k lb thrust at sea level.” 

SpaceX began making the Raptor 2 engines in December. Musk at the time said the engine generates more than 230 tonnes of thrust at sea level, up from Raptor 1’s 185 tonnes, and said further improvements are expected.

SpaceX is awaiting a key Federal Aviation Administration approval to launch the Starship flight. The decision is expected to be announced on Monday.

Photo: Courtesy of SpaceX via Flickr

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