Elon Musk Explains Improvements to SpaceX's Falcon 9 Block 5 Rocket

Elon Musk Explains Improvements to SpaceX's Falcon 9 Block 5 Rocket

Andrew Cummings
May 16, 2018

On May 11th SpaceX Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket successfully launched Bangabandhu Satellite-1 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. "I believe we remain in an excellent scenario".

"The word "block" is a little unusual". The single vacuum-optimized Merlin engine on Falcon 9's second stage has a 5 percent thrust increase to 220,000 pounds-force, he said. "The secret to Block 5 is that it's developed to do 10 or more flights without any fix in between each flight". Previous launches of the previous version of the first stage took months to recover, and the Block 5 is not yet at its full potential. The Falcon 9 rockets that SpaceX has been flying for the previous year are all reusable, but they require an extensive teardown between flights to perform maintenance.

Following this first launch, the Block 5 is created to last for another 99 missions. The eventual plan is for the rockets to land vertically, be taken back down to horizontal, have a new payload attached, be put back upright on the launchpad, and sent back into space.

SpaceX put lock systems on the Falcon 9's landing legs so the vehicle does not need to depend on external clamps for steadying on ocean-platform landings, Musk stated. SpaceX has since worked tirelessly to redesign those stress vessels in collaboration with NASA so as to cover the agency's concerns about using this layout on after Falcon 9 commercial team starts.

SpaceX likewise updated the rocket's avionics, and is keeping the titanium grid fins, he stated. The Falcon 9 formerly used aluminum fins for steering the Falcon 9 first point back to Earth, but SpaceX shifted those around the Block 3 into titanium following the aluminum fins caught fire through reentry. Although Musk and other SpaceX officials have known as the Block 5 the last layout, Musk suggested that some small improvements could nevertheless be made into the rocket. This new rocket manufacturing facility will be built on an artificial Island which is of 19 Acres and part of the Los Angeles port and is expected to provide jobs to over 700 people.

Musk said the rocket's interstage features a hydrophobic thermal protection developed by SpaceX that is highly reusable and doesn't require paint.

"There will not be a Block 6", Musk said.

Musk said the each of the nine Merlin engines used to power the Falcon 9's first stage now have an 8 percent increase in thrust at sea level to 190,000 pounds-force.

"We mean to stabilize the Block 5 stage and don't have any significant upgrades".

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