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SpaceX employee #1 behind engines used in Falcon rockets completes years-long retirement

Tom Mueller started building SpaceX alongside Elon Musk when the space exploration company was founded in 2002. Now the brains behind the engines used in SpaceX rockets and spacecrafts has officially retired.

Mueller started his 18-year-long career at SpaceX as vice president of propulsion engineering in May 2002 when the doors opened. Described as “employee number one” at SpaceX, the former VP of propulsion engineering is credited with leading design and development of the Merlin and Draco engines used on Falcon rockets and Dragon spacecrafts.

Tom Mueller was promoted to propulsion chief technology officer after 12 years in his original role at SpaceX. He spent two and a half years as propulsion CTO before spending another two and a half years in the position part time.

Since January 2019, Mueller has served as a part time senior adviser on “new technology developments for SpaceX propulsion, including Mars main propulsion and surface power,” according to his LinkedIn. Mueller completes his years-long retirement process from SpaceX in the same year that the company sent astronauts to Earth orbit using Merlin and Draco engines he helped create.

Now the father of the Merlin engine can spend more time driving that sweet electric Porsche. While SpaceX continues to rely on both the Merlin and Draco engines for current missions, SpaceX is developing a next-generation rocket engine called Raptor that will power the much-larger Starship vehicle.

Raptor, which is currently being tested in South Texas, touts 2,000 kilonewtons of thrust over Merlin’s 845 kilonewtons of thrust. In thrust, a newton is the unit of force required to accelerate a kilogram of mass at one meter per second squared.

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