Falcon 9 Block 5
The Block 5 variant of the Falcon 9 launching Crew Dragon in Demo-2 mission from Kennedy Space Center on May 30, 2020. The rocket's distinguishing black thermal-protection coating on the interstage is discernible.
|Function||Partially reusable orbital medium-lift launch vehicle|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Height||70 m (230 ft) with payload fairing|
|Diameter||3.66 m (12.0 ft)|
|Mass||549,054 kg (1,210,457 lb)|
|Payload to LEO (28.5°)|
|Payload to GTO (27°)|
|Payload to Mars|
|Mass||4,020 kg (8,860 lb)|
|First flight||May 11, 2018|
|Engines||9 Merlin 1D+|
|Thrust||7,607 kN (1,710,000 lbf)|
|Fuel||Subcooled LOX / chilled RP-1|
|Engines||1 Merlin 1D Vacuum|
|Thrust||934 kN (210,000 lbf)|
|Fuel||LOX / RP-1|
Falcon 9 Block 5 is a partially reusable two-stage-to-orbit medium-lift launch vehicle designed and manufactured in the United States by SpaceX. It is the fifth version of Falcon 9 Full Thrust, powered by SpaceX Merlin engines burning liquid oxygen (LOX) and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) propellants.
The main changes from Block 3 to Block 5 are higher-thrust engines and improvements to the landing legs. Numerous other small changes helped streamline recovery and re-usability of first-stage boosters, increase production rate, and optimize re-usability. Each Block 5 booster is designed to fly 10 times with only minor attention and up to 100 times with refurbishment.
In 2018, Falcon 9 Block 5 succeeded the transitional Block 4 version. The maiden flight launched the satellite Bangabandhu-1 on May 11, 2018. The CRS-15 mission on June 29, 2018 was the last Block 4 version of Falcon 9 to be launched. This was the transition to an all-Block 5 fleet.
The Block 5 design changes are principally driven by upgrades needed for NASA's Commercial Crew program and National Security Space Launch requirements. They include performance upgrades, manufacturing improvements, and "probably 100 or so changes" to increase the margin for demanding customers.
In April 2017, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that Block 5 will feature 7–8% more thrust by uprating the engines (from 176,000 pounds-force (780,000 N) to 190,000 pounds-force (850,000 N) per engine). Block 5 includes an improved flight control system for an optimized angle of attack on the descent, lowering landing fuel requirements.
For reusability endurance:
- expected to be able to be launched at least 10 times;
- up to 100 uses with refurbishment;
- a reusable heat shield protecting the engines and plumbing at the base of the rocket;
- more temperature-resistant cast and machined titanium grid fins;
- a thermal-protection coating on the first stage to limit reentry heating damage, including a black thermal protection layer on the landing legs, raceway, and interstage;
- redesigned and requalified more robust and longer life valves;
- redesigned composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPV 2.0) for helium, to avoid oxygen freezing inside the structure of the tanks that lead to rupture.
For rapid reusability:
- reduced refurbishment between flights;
- a set of retractable landing legs for rapid recovery and shipping.
- the Octaweb structure is bolted together instead of welded, reducing manufacturing time.
The NASA certification processes of the 2010s specified seven flights of any launch vehicle without major design changes before the vehicle would be NASA-certified for human spaceflight, and allowed to fly NASA astronauts. The initial Block 5 boosters did not have the redesigned composite overwrapped pressure vessel (COPV2) tanks. The first booster with COPV2 tanks was booster B1047 on the Es'hail 2 mission on November 15, 2018, and the second booster using the COPV2 tanks was CRS-16/B1050, which had its first launch on December 5, 2018.
- SpaceX Starship
- Falcon Heavy, derivative launcher
- Saturn IB, Apollo manned LEO launcher (1966-1975)
- List of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches
- List of Falcon 9 Block 5 first-stage boosters
- "Falcon User's Guide" (PDF). January 14, 2019. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
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- SpaceX. "Bangabandhu Satellite-1 Mission". Retrieved February 2, 2019 – via YouTube.
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- @elonmusk (December 17, 2015). "-340 F in this case. Deep cryo increases density and amplifies rocket performance. First time anyone has gone this low for O2. [RP-1 chilled] from 70F to 20 F" (Tweet). Retrieved December 19, 2015 – via Twitter.
- "Falcon 9 & Falcon Heavy". Retrieved February 3, 2021.
The v1.2 design was constantly improved upon over time, leading to different sub-versions or “Blocks”. The initial design, flying on the maiden flight was thus referred to as Block 1. The final design which has largely stayed static since 2018 is the Block 5 variant.
- "Acme Engineering". Retrieved February 3, 2021.
- Clark, Stephen (April 4, 2017). "Musk previews busy year ahead for SpaceX". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved April 7, 2018.
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- SpaceX Test-Fires New Falcon 9 Block 5 Rocket Ahead of Maiden Flight (Updated). Robin Seemangal, Popular Mechanics. May 4, 2018.
- SpaceX is about to land a whole lot more rockets. Loren Grush, The Verge. July 22, 2018.
- Elon Musk on Twitter: I don’t want be cavalier, but there isn’t an obvious limit. 100+ flights are possible. Some parts will need to be replaced or upgraded.
- Musk, Elon (June 24, 2017). "Flying with larger & significantly upgraded hypersonic grid fins. Single piece cast & cut titanium. Can take reentry heat with no shielding". @elonmusk. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
- "SpaceX Test-Fires New Falcon 9 Block 5 Rocket Ahead of Maiden Flight (Updated)". Popular Mechanics. May 4, 2018.
- "I am Andy Lambert, SpaceX's VP of Production. Ask me anything about production & manufacturing, and what it's like to be a part of our team!". reddit.com. April 24, 2018.
- Clark, Stephen. "New helium tank for SpaceX crew launches still waiting to fly – Spaceflight Now". Retrieved December 6, 2018.
- "SpaceX landing mishap won't affect upcoming launches". SpaceNews.com. December 5, 2018. Retrieved December 6, 2018.
- "NASA, Partners Update Commercial Crew Launch Dates – Commercial Crew Program". blogs.nasa.gov. Retrieved February 26, 2019. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- Link to Falcon User's Guide, by SpaceX. Updated in January 2019 specifically for Block 5 upgrades.