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Home / Science / SpaceX will launch its rocket upgrades for Falcon 9 with launch of next week's Spaceflight Now

SpaceX will launch its rocket upgrades for Falcon 9 with launch of next week's Spaceflight Now



EDITOR'S NOTE: Updated at 19.00 EDT (2300 GMT) to correct the schedule for the first Crew Dragon mission

File photo of a Falcon 9 rocket deployed in front of a previous mission on the Launch Pad 39A Florida stood. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX technicians at Cape Canaveral are getting ready for the launch of an improved Falcon 9 rocket, a mission that will usher changes to make the launcher safer for astronauts, making it easier and cheaper the company to reuse first stage boosters.

The launch, currently scheduled for May 4 during a launch window opening at 4 pm EDT (2000 GMT), will beat the Bangabandhu 1 communications satellite built in Europe for Bangladesh.

The upgraded rocket, known as the "Block 5" iteration of the Falcon 9, is a brand new vehicle recently launched at the Florida Spaceport after a final test cycle of the nine Merlin 1D engines on a test rig on the SpaceX Development site in McGregor, Texas.

The changes include updates to help the Falcon 9 rocket meet NASA's human needs. and introduces modifications to allow SpaceX to recover and reuse first stage boosters at a faster rate.

On Monday, April 30, it is planned to hold down the Falcon 9 rocket at Launch Pad 39A, the former Apollo and shuttle aircraft. Era launch complex at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Taking off from Pad 39A will follow on May 4 as ground teams return the rocket to the nearby Hangar hangar for the Bangabandhu 1 satellite.

It will be the first rocket launch of Pad 39A since SpaceX's first Falcon Heavy launchers to be Falcon 9's first level booster team, picked up by the Space Coast on February 6th.

"Block 5 is here," said Hans Koenigsmann, Vice President of Build and Flight Reliability for SpaceX, in a meeting with reporters last week. "We're all excited, we had a good test campaign in Texas, I think it was faster than ever for a new block upgrade, but it takes time to work out and test it all on a block upgrade I'm looking forward to this launch in early May. "

The communications satellite Bangabandhu 1, pictured at the Thales Alenia Space factory in Cannes, France. Credit: Thales Alenia Space

"Block 5 basically sums up everything we've learned about reusability," Koenigsmann said. "Whenever we get a booster back and it's going to be refurbished, we find things that give us … lessons for the next block, in which case we've tried to combine all those lessons into a booster that can fly and then

"That's basically the key to Block 5," Konigsmann said. "It's a reliability update that combines reliability and reusability."

One of the most important Changes in the Block 5 version of the Falcon 9 is the addition of elastic heat shield material to the base of the first stage of the rocket, according to Koenigsmann

The Block 5 engines can also produce more power and redesign to reuse the engines The Block 5 version of the Falcon 9 will also include changes that meet NASA's safety requirements for astronaut launches along the way to meet the International Space Station.

"Block 5 is the last major spin on Falcon 9 and will be driven primarily by the upgrade. We had to do that for the commercial crew program as well as for the launch site for the national security room," Gwynne Shotwell said. SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer during a Q & A session with reporters last year

signed contracts with SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to promote astronauts to and from the International Space Station. SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule will launch with Falcon 9 missiles from the Kennedy Space Center, and the company is planning an orbital test flight with two astronauts toward the end of this year, though NASA officials expect the first manned demonstration flight in 2019.

The SpaceX engineers also added a permanent repair to the Block 5 upgrade to address problems with turbine cracks in the Merlin engine turbo pump and new helium tanks that are not prone to collecting frozen liquid oxygen and friction to explode a Falcon 9 led rocket on the launch pad in 2016.

"There is also a performance boost here, especially to get more margin for (these) very demanding customers," said Shotwell. "There are some manufacturing improvements, we have addressed the problem with the turbine wheel (in block 5) and there are probably 100 or more changes to this vehicle."

Nine Merlin 1D engines operating in an "Octaweb" Configuration were arranged on the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket. This file photo shows a first stage of Falcon 9 that was flown on a previous launch with polished engine nozzles that are no longer used on SpaceX missions. Credit: SpaceX

Block 5 is the most significant upgrade to the Falcon 9 rocket as SpaceX introduced the "Full Thrust" configuration in December 2015, when it announced for the first time super cooled, densified RP-1 kerosene and fluid

Since then, SpaceX has flown reinforced titanium mesh fins to replace the disposable aluminum control wings used in the first-stage descent of the Falcon 9. A Falcon 9 launch from California in February debuted a slightly larger payload fairing. Both improvements are scheduled to fly regularly on Falcon 9 Block 5 missions.

In an interview on The Space Show online radio program last summer, Shotwell said Block 5 is important to SpaceX's ambition to reuse Falcon 9 Boosters first-stage often and at lower cost. Boosters based on previous Falcon 9 designs can be reused two or three times, but a first level of Block 5 could be reused "a dozen times," she said.

The ultimate goal of the Block 5 upgrade is to complete the first stage of Falcon 9, which could fly up to 100 times, SpaceX officials said. According to SpaceX, the first stage of the Falcon 9 Block 5 should start up to 10 times with minimal rework between the missions

The fastest turnaround between the flights of the same Falcon 9 Booster was about five months and no Falcon 9 first stage is more than flown twice.

Components on the Block 5 rocket, such as valves, were planned to be requalified and redesigned under more extreme operating conditions and for longer duration, she said on the space show

Block 5 includes new landing legs that can be withdrawn without rescue teams having to move them away from the rocket, and the interstage structure connecting the first and second levels is black and unpainted.

The first The engine part of the stage, known as "Octaweb", is bolted to the bottom of the booster in the Block 5 configuration. The Octaweb assembly, which drops the nine first-stage Merlin engines on the rocket floor and directs liquid propellants to the engines, was welded to the rocket in earlier Falcon 9 designs.

The previous version of the Falcon 9 rocket will fly a few more missions after the launch of Bangabandhu 1. Two more Falcon 9s are scheduled later in May – one from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and one from Cape Canaveral – and both will use already flown first stages.

The last newly manufactured "Block 4" Falcon 9 was launched on NASA's Transit Exoplanet Survey Satellite on April 18. The Booster landed on SpaceX's drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean, and SpaceX plans to reuse it at the company's next return to the International Space Station in late June until the final NASA approval] The communications satellite Bangabandhu 1 launching on the maiden flight Falcon 9 Block 5 will reach Cape Canaveral on March 30 after a transatlantic flight with an Antonov cargo plane from its Thales-Alenia-Space factory in France

Built in Europe for the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission will be the dual-band Ku-band satellite and C-band TV broadcast and data relay services throughout Bangladesh and su

Thales Alenia Space will deliver the Bangabandhu 1 satellite to its state-owned operator after launch. The so-called "Delivery-in-Orbit" arrangement gives Thales Alenia Space responsibility for the construction of the spacecraft, the procurement of launch services and the ground tracking and control infrastructure. E-mail to the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1 .


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