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Elon Musk with rocket engine
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk checks out the nozzle of a full-scale Raptor rocket engine in advance of its first test firing. (Elon Musk via Twitter)

SpaceX CEO celebrated the first test firing of a full-scale, built-for-flight Raptor engine for his Starship super-rocket in the usual way tonight: by tweeting about it.

“So proud of great work by @SpaceX team,” Musk wrote in a series of tweets from SpaceX’s test facility near McGregor, Texas.

Scaled-down versions of the methane-fueled Raptor rocket engine went through testing as far back as two and a half years ago, but Musk said this weekend’s test marked the “first firing of Starship Raptor flight engine.”

Tonight’s tweets fired up SpaceX enthusiasts on Reddit, who went so far as to debate the source of the colors seen in imagery from the test. Here are highlights from the tweetstream::

In an earlier tweet, Musk said SpaceX would start out making a 440,000-pound-thrust version of the Raptor, to be used on the Starship interplanetary spaceship as well as its Super Heavy first-stage booster. There’d eventually be 31 Raptors powering the reusable Super Heavy, and seven Raptors on the Starship.

The initial version would make it possible “to reach the moon as fast as possible,” Musk wrote. That should come as welcome news to Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who’s paying to ride a Starship around the moon by the mid-2020s.

Separate follow-on versions would be customized for use on the Starship or on the Super Heavy, packing a punch of as much as 550,000 pounds each at liftoff. That’s equivalent to the power of the BE-4 rocket engines that Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture is developing for its New Glenn rocket.

Musk’s ultimate goal is to use the Starship / Super Heavy system — previously known as the Mars Colonial Transporter, the Interplanetary Transport System, the Big “Falcon” Rocket or the BFR — to send settlers to Mars.

A prototype version of the Starship, dubbed the Starship Hopper, is under construction at another SpaceX facility on South Texas’ Gulf Coast. Musk has said the prototype could start doing short-hop tests within the next month or two; although that schedule may have been set back by a storm that damaged the Hopper last month during construction.

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