In just one more sleep, SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity CEO Elon Musk will at last let loose his plans for colonizing Mars in the next decades and how he plans on doing so. Musk has been a proponent of colonizing the Red Planet for years now, although it has seemed mostly a pipe dream. Until now.

SpaceX
Photo by SpaceX-Imagery (Pixabay)

SpaceX has reportedly completed the first test fire of its experimental interplanetary Raptor engine, the rocket that Elon Musk hopes will be the one to take us to Mars.

Musk unveils first images of Raptor rocket test

Last night, Musk tweeted a number of images of the test fire as well as some interesting details regarding the specifications of the brand-new spacecraft propulsion system.

The tweets show incredible images of the engine firing, with a massive jet stream coming out of the engine, contrasted beautifully by the night sky. Additionally, the images show the “Mach diamonds” produced, which is a standing wave pattern that typically appears in supersonic rocket engine exhaust plumes.

Early this morning, Musk followed up with some tweets that provided more details about the Raptor engine, which he said has a thrust of about 3 million Newtons in the upper atmosphere. The Raptor engine is nearly three times more powerful than SpaceX’s existing engine, the Merlin 1-D, nine of which power the company’s Falcon 9 rocket.

If these specifications are correct, the Raptor engine would be slightly more powerful than a space shuttle main engine, and in the same class as competitor Blue Origin’s BE-4 rocket engine, which has yet to undergo an official test.

An undetermined number of Raptor engines are expected to power SpaceX’s next-generation rocket, the BFR. Musk is expected to divulge additional technical details about the engine, the large rocket, and the Interplanetary Transport System spacecraft during tomorrow’s address. This information provide the basic bedrock on how the company plans to send hundreds of colonists to Mars in the next decades.

SpaceX CEO to address Mars ambitions tomorrow

These tweets come on the eve of a major presentation outlining Musk’s Mars exploration plans for SpaceX. Tomorrow, at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara, Mexico, Musk is expected to talk about the technologies needed to bring people to Mars, and what it will take to build a long-term settlement there.

According to the event description on the IAC’s website, the announcement will cover a broad range of issues:

“[D]uring a special keynote entitled “Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species,” Musk will discuss the long-term technical hat need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars. The technical presentation will focus on potential architectures for colonizing the Red Planet that industry, government and the scientific community can collaborate on in the years ahead.”

“I’m certain that success is one of the possible outcomes for establishing a self-sustaining Mars colony, a growing Mars colony,” the SpaceX boss said in a recent interview with Y Combinator. Musk added that until very recently, he would not have been able to make the same claim.

Musk stated that “a meaningful number of people” to Mars “can be accomplished in about ten years, maybe sooner, maybe nine years.”