SpaceX Raptor 1 vs. Raptor 2 engine changes

Undesigning is the best thing …

Where it Came From

Elon Musk; world's richest guy; owns a bunch of companies:

He has degrees in Physics and Economics, and is good at coding, but his passion is solving problems. Unfortunately (or fortunately) he seems to find (or put) himself in constant crisis mode, surrounded by challenges that would leave most of us running for the hills.

He lacks social skills and his outspoken opinions are polarizing, but you have to respect his ability to create, deliver, and recreate.

Why I Like It

Steve Jobs was a flawed (aren't we all?) but brilliant person. Like Elon, Steve had a passion for stripping away what wasn't needed - until what remained (product, company, or message) was pure, minimalistic, and often a work of art.

Steve disdained mediocrity. “Nike makes some of the best products in the world." he once said. "Products that you lust after. But they also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.”

Like Steve's "Get rid of the crappy stuff" quote, Elon's philosophy is similar.

Chapter 63 in Walter Isaacson's new book: Elon Musk, tells the story of how SpaceX redesigned the Raptor Version 1 engine for their Starship rocket. From concept in 2021 to flight in 2023, each Starship Super Heavy booster uses 33 Raptor Version 2 engines - and can lift 250 tons of payload  into orbit. (Compare this to the world's previous, most powerful rocket - the Saturn V moon ship - at 118 tons per launch).

Needing 500 Raptor engines/year to power a fleet of Starships, Musk drove SpaceX engineers - in one of his self-induced, crisis "surges" - to not only make Version 2 simpler, but to also increase the power and decrease the cost.

How? Question everything, eliminate, redesign, get rid of the crap. Then if it breaks, put it back in or fix it. If you didn't break it, you didn't take enough out to begin with.

The result? Two years later, Raptor Version 2 is 25% lighter, costs 50% less to make, and is 25% more powerful than Raptor Version 1.

If you have a chance to read Isaacson's book or listen to the audio version, it's a fascinating story of how less can be more.

Category: Quotes, Thoughts
Topics: Technology