SpaceX technicians prepare to launch the newly improved Falcon 9 rocket next week. The changes are designed to make the rocket safer for astronauts, making it more affordable and easier to recycle first-stage boosters. The upgraded rocket is known as Falcon 9's Block 5 iteration. The all-new vehicle was recently transported to the Florida Space Station after testing with 9 Merlin 1D engines in McGregor, Texas. Block 5 is scheduled for launch on May 4th. SpaceX also made sure the rocket met NASA's human needs.
The company plans to hold down the rocket at Launch Pad 39A on April 30, 201
Hans Koenigsmann said her test campaign in Texas was good. According to Koenigsmann, the Block 5 version of the Falcon 9 rocket sums up everything they've learned to reuse. Whenever they fix a booster, they find things that will give them lessons for the next block. They tried to combine these lessons into a booster, fly, repair and fly again without being much refurbished.
At the base of the first stage of Block 5 is a shield material that is more resistant to heat than that used in the Falcon 9 rocket. The block's engines can produce more power and have a redesign that makes it easier and easier to save engines on multiple flights. It will also include changes to meet NASA's security requirements for astronaut missions en route to the International Space Station.
SpaceX Chief Operating Officer and President Gwynne Shotwell said Block 5 will be powered primarily by the upgrade required to meet the National Security Space and Commercial Crew Program requirements. SpaceX engineers have also permanently repaired the new Block 5 configuration to address a problem with turbine cracks in the turbocharger of the Merlin engine. The spacecraft is equipped with new helium tanks that are not prone to friction and collect frozen liquid oxygen.
While boosters based on previous Falcon 9 models can be recycled 2 or 3 times, the first level of Block 5 is designed up to 10 times with marginal remediation between missions. The goal of the upgrade is to make the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket fly a hundred times during refurbishment work.