Tuesday, 25 September, 2018

SpaceX to debut upgraded Falcon 9 rocket

Space X's Falcon 9 rocket Space X's Falcon 9 rocket. BRUCE WEAVER AFP — Getty Images
| 11 May, 2018, 04:43

Nothing unusual in that, but today's launch is special given that SpaceX is using an uprated "Block 5" first stage for its Falcon 9 rocket, its most advanced to date, for the launch.

Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, has said this rocket will be "the final version" of the company's workhorse launcher.

Although the company hasn't outlined all the changes, there will be a stronger heat shield for the trip back through the Earth's atmosphere and new retractable landing legs. The rocket was also created to meet NASA's stringent crew-carrying requirements. It's also created to be safer and more reliable for astronauts who will be launched to the space station by SpaceX within the next year.

If SpaceX is unable to launch the satellite on Thursday, a backup window is scheduled for Friday.

However, in order to obtain the desired savings, SpaceX will not only have to operate rockets that are easy to overhaul but also to reduce the workforce involved in the rockets' overhauls. But with the nature of often skewed and overambitious company launch timelines, a mid-2019 launch for crew missions is a more reasonable estimate.

It is part of SpaceX's goal of rapid reusability and high reliability for its rockets. The previous versions of the first stage booster have flown twice at most. The payload fairing has also been upgraded, which will theoretically help with recovery, which SpaceX hasn't been able to do yet.


During its first Falcon Heavy launch in February 2018, the firm landed two of the firms side boosters simultaneously on separate launchpads.

The Falcon Heavy is 230 feet tall and consists of three Falcon 9 first-stage cores.

As expected, Musk has set out an aggressive timeline for when the BFR will be ready for takeoff.

"I think the F9 boosters could be used nearly indefinitely, so long as there is scheduled maintenance and careful inspections", Musk said on Reddit in October 2016.

'Although sometimes, my timelines are a little, you know.,' he joked. It will ultimately replace all other SpaceX rockets, as it will be relatively low-cost to launch and reuse - at least in theory.

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