At 35:46 in part 1 of this recording of SpaceX's Hans Koenigsmann's talk at IAC 2018, he says something like:

The green stuff that you see is TEA-TEB, that’s the ignition fluid that they use.

The flame that goes a little bit like up and down, that’s the xxx; the yyy flame. The main flame just goes straight down.

What are the terms represented here as xxx and yyy? If the terms are not obvious, a little further explanation is appreciated.


1 Answer 1


The jumping flame was the gas generator exhaust.

You can see that as the bronze-ish coloured smaller cylinder on the side of the engine in this picture of Merlin 1D engines in the factory.

Merlin 1Ds on the factory floor

You can see how it changes in size and shape from the Merlin 1C in this image:

Merlin 1C

This is really obvious on the last Falcon 1, which used a Merlin 1C but was never flown, and recently was moved from storage to the Hawthorne factory, and there is a great shot of the F1 next to the F9 on display.

F1 next to F9 display

The Merlin engine burns fuel/oxidizer in a separate combuster, whose output/power is used to run the fuel pump.

Rockets needs gobs and gobs of fuel/oxidizer at rates that are astonishing. The SSME on the Space Shuttle high pressure turbo pump put out 23,260 hp (17.34 MW) of power. That is a lot.

The Merlin has about 1/3 the total thrust of the SSME, but uses denser fuels and a single turbo pump for both fuel and oxidizer but still needs to move a lot of liquids very quickly.

On the Merlin, the exhaust is vented over the side from the gas generator. That is the flame you are seeing.


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