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Experience the firepower of this full-featured Falcon 9 rocket

Enlarge / All five major versions of the Falcon 9, side by side.

The Falcon 9 rocket has been reworked four times over the last eight years, culminating in the Block 5 rocket. The initial expendable version of the rocket (v1.0) could bring about 10.5 tons into the near-earth orbit. This was a nice, decent rocket, but hardly a superstar.

One of the hallmarks of SpaceX, however, is its ruthless dedication to innovation. And while it may be appropriate to criticize the company for focusing too fast and too little on the here and now ̵

1; if the culture of innovation works, it works .

In only eight years, SpaceX jumped from the first version of its rocket to the Block 5 rocket. This mighty rocket can bring nearly 23 tons into a near-earth orbit after undergoing hundreds of changes and improvements since its first flight. Theoretically, the first stage will be able to complete 10 flights before a major refurbishment is required. It's so capable that even company founder Elon Musk (SpaceX's high-level innovation culture minister) says it's good enough. This is probably the last major overhaul of the Falcon 9.

During the second flight of the Block 5 variant of the Falcon 9 rocket, talented photographer Trevor Mahlmann arrived in Florida for the night launch. Some of the images he took at launch from the rocket's Merlin 1D engines are the most impressive we've ever seen, as well as the photos of the rocket that are being blasted. We are impressed by the photographs – and by the rocket itself.

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