Falcon 9 Block 5 is preparing for the first flight

    On the night from Monday to Tuesday, the first launch of the final version of the Falcon 9 - Block 5 rocket is scheduled. On May 4, the first stage was successfully burned at the LC39A launch pad. In this version, as expected, the first stage can be reused at least ten times. For some reason, SpaceX has not yet released a complete list of changes in visual form, so it had to be made up of enthusiasts from disparate statements by company representatives.

    Burn the first stage of the Falcon 9 Block 5, photo by nasaspaceflight.com

    Level 1046

    SpaceX internal number for the first stage of Block 5 - 1046. In February, she went to McGregor for tests.

    Step on the tests in MacGregor, photo ScaryDare / Nasaspaceflight.com

    The photo shows a new black color of the transition compartment at the top, but, for example, the landing pillars have not yet been installed. On March 11-13, the engines of the stage turned on for a very short time, but on March 15, they completed the full cycle of real flight operation. Then the stage was sent for assembly to the assembly and test complex of the launch site LC-39A. In a much higher degree of readiness, we were able to see it quite recently, when taking it out for burning on the launch pad.

    Transportation steps to the start, SpaceX photo.

    Here are already visible new supports, which also changed color. On the evening of May 4, the stage was successfully burned.

    Possible changes

    Since SpaceX still has not released an official list of changes, space enthusiasts with Reddit have collected their own on photo analysis, news, and statements from various officials.

    Titanium aerodynamic steering wheels

    Aluminum steering wheels had to be covered with heat protection, and still they were damaged when entering the dense layers of the atmosphere (in the photo on the left). New titanium steering wheels have already been tested in 2017 and proved to be much more durable. They also slightly increased their area, which should improve handling.

    New landing pads

    In previous versions, pylons had to be removed after landing, and this was inconvenient. Now they will take shape, making it easier to prepare for the restart. A change in color can mean a change in the material from which they are made.

    Suitability for manned flights

    For rockets on which people fly, higher safety requirements are imposed. NASA demanded 7 successful Falcon 9 flights in a “frozen” configuration without new changes. Sometimes the agency is criticized for this decision, they say, in the 80s NASA itself launched a shuttle on the first flight immediately with the crew, but, taking into account SpaceX's love for the constant introduction of new improvements, statistics will not be superfluous, and taking into account the pace of SpaceX launches, there is a lot of time does not take.

    Changing the design of turbopumps

    In the turbine pumps of Merlin engines microcracks appeared. SpaceX did not consider it a noteworthy danger, but, at the request of NASA, was forced to correct the problem.

    Installation of thermal protection

    In order that the stage could save fuel, entering the atmosphere at a higher speed, and suffered less from heat loads, the paint was replaced with a full thermal protection.

    Strengthening the thermal protection of the tail compartment

    In the area of ​​the engines already have thermal protection, it is going to strengthen.

    Replacing the mounting method of the power element of the tail section

    Falcon 9 engines are installed on the Octaweb frame. In previous versions, it was fastened to the rocket by welding, now it will be mounted on bolts to facilitate inter-flight maintenance. The same should simplify the conversion of the first stage of the Falcon 9 to the side Falcon Heavy unit.

    Possible replacement of the material of the transition compartment

    The fact that the transitional compartment (in which the engine of the second stage is located) of white became black may indicate that its material has been replaced with unpainted carbon.

    The new version of the fairing The

    new fairing will be slightly larger and refined for rescue and reuse.

    New boost tanks The

    history of the accident in 2016, when, in preparation for the launch, the second stage boost tank exploded and the Amos-6 satellite was lost, SpaceX remembers and implements all the new improvements so that this problem does not recur.

    More powerful engines

    The version of the Merlin engines is still called -1D, but they write that their thrust will increase by about 10%.

    Other minor changes

    According to rumors, in the design of the rocket for reusable valves are changed. Also, changes are expected in the control system - the first stage will be able to land with a smaller fuel reserve, which will allow not to lose it when removing heavier payloads.

    Payload and launch date

    In the upcoming launch of Falcon 9 Block 5, the first geostationary telecommunications satellite of Bangladesh Bangabandhu-1 should be launched. It is light enough, only 3500 kg, and the first stage will have fuel for landing on the barge. The starting window opens at 20:00 Moscow time on May 7 and closes at 1:25 Moscow time on May 8.
    UPD: According to rumors, due to weather conditions, the start was already postponed to Thursday.

    Percentage of sales

    SpaceX's promises about Falcon 9 Block 5’s capabilities are extremely ambitious - in past years it was said that it could be restarted within 24 hours, and recently it was reported that the first stage could only be started 10 times when refueling, without a serious reassembly, and going to bring up to 100 starts. So it will be interesting to see how SpaceX will manage to implement these plans.

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