SpaceX technicians are preparing for the launch of the recently improved Falcon 9 rocket next week. The changes were designed to make the rocket safer for astronauts and to make it more affordable and easier for the company to recycle the first stage thrusters. The updated rocket is known as the iteration of Block 5 of the Falcon 9. The new vehicle was recently transported to the Florida spaceport after a long-duration test of its 9 Merlin 1D engines in McGregor, Texas. Block 5 is planned for the May 4 release. SpaceX also made sure that the rocket meets NASA's human classification requirements.
The company plans to perform a rocket ignition with the retention engine down on April 30, 2018 on launch pad 39A. The takeoff from the launch pad will occur on May 4 after the ground crews return the Falcon 9 to the company's adjacent hangar. This will be done to connect the Bangabandhu 1 satellite to the rocket.
Hans Koenigsmann said his test campaign in Texas was good. According to Koenigsmann, the version of block 5 of the Falcon 9 rocket summarizes everything they learned about reuse. When they arrange a reinforcement, they find things that give them lessons for the next block. They tried to combine these lessons in a reinforcement that can fly, be repaired and fly again without having to make many repairs.
At the base of the first stage of Block 5 there is a protective material that is more resistant to heat than the one used in the Falcon 9 rocket. The engines of the block can generate more power and present a redesign that makes the engines are easier and easier to save on several flights. It will also include changes to meet NASA safety requirements for missions with astronauts heading to the International Space Station.
Operations Director and SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said that Block 5 is driven primarily by the upgrade needed to meet the requirements of the commercial crew program and the national security space launch. The SpaceX engineers also made a permanent fixation on the new configuration of Block 5 to solve a problem with cracks in the turbine wheel on the Merlin engine turbo pump. The spacecraft is equipped with new helium tanks that are not prone to friction and accumulate frozen liquid oxygen.
While impellers based on previous Falcon 9 designs can be recycled 2 or 3 times, the first stage of Block 5 is designed to be used up to 10 times with a marginal refresh between missions. The objective of the update is to make the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket capable of flying a hundred times with the renewal.