68ºF

3 ways new 'Block 5' Falcon 9 helps SpaceX launch faster, more often

First Block 5 Falcon 9 launch set for Monday

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – SpaceX will unveil its new enhanced Falcon 9 rocket at Kennedy Space Center Monday afternoon for the launch of a Bangladesh communications satellite.

The powerful “Block 5” version of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket has been in development for more than 10 years and will launch from Kennedy Space Center’s historic launch pad 39A, which hasn’t been used since the test flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket in February.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shared a photo of the Block 5 booster being rolled out to the pad Thursday. The new booster was tested Friday evening during a static fire pad test.

The Bangabandhu-1 satellite will launch no earlier than Monday. The more than two-hour launch window opens at 4 p.m. After launch, SpaceX plans to land the upgraded booster on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" in the Atlantic Ocean.

The commercial space company is on track to outpace its own launch record from last year, with that more used boosters launching from the Space Coast.

Here’s three ways SpaceX’s improved “Block 5” Falcon 9 rocket will help the company’s goals of bringing down the cost of spaceflight and launching at a quicker pace.

More launches without major refurbishment

The previous Block 4 boosters could fly twice before major repairs were needed, according to SpaceX.

SpaceX wants to fly the Block 5 boosters up to 10 times before bringing them in for major refurbishment.

Block 5 boosters should be able to fly about 100 times before being retired from launching.

Quick turnaround

Because the Block 5 boosters will need less maintenance between launches, SpaceX will be able to reduce the turnaround time.

The improved Falcon 9 first stages will be ready to launch again only 48 hours after recovery.

“We’re trying to summarize all of these lessons learned into a booster that then is able to fly and be recovered and fly again multiple times without a lot of refurbishment,” Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX's vice president of build and flight reliability, told News 6 partner Florida Today last month. “It’s a reliability upgrade that combines reliability and reusability.”

Ready for commercial crew 

Block 5 boosters will be more powerful than the Block 4's with a higher thrust capacity and designed to meet the qualifications to fly NASA commercial crew program astronauts early next year.

Musk tweeted this week that the SpaceX Crew Dragon, designed to shuttle NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station, ships to Cape Canaveral in about three months.

Check back for updates leading up to the launch at ClickOrlando.com/Space.


About the Author: