Falcon 9 Block 5

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Falcon 9 Block 5
Bangabandhu Satellite-1 Mission (42025498972).jpg
The Block 5 variant of the Falcon 9 launching from Kennedy Space Center. The rocket's distinguishing black thermal protection coating on the interstage is discernible.
FunctionOrbital medium-lift launch vehicle
Country of originUnited States
Height70 m (230 ft) with payload fairing[1]
Diameter3.66 m (12.0 ft)[2]
Mass549,054 kg (1,210,457 lb)[2]
Payload to LEO (28.5°)
  • Expendable: 22,800 kg (50,300 lb)[3], 15,600 kg (34,400 lb) when landing
Payload to GTO (27°)
  • Expendable: 8,300 kg (18,300 lb)[3]
  • Reusable: 5,500 kg (12,100 lb)[3]
Payload to Mars4,020 kg (8,860 lb)[3]
Associated rockets
FamilyFalcon 9
Launch history
Total launches27
First flightMay 11, 2018
Notable payloads
First stage
Engines9 Merlin 1D+
Thrust7,607 kN (1,710,000 lbf)[4][5]
FuelSubcooled LOX / Chilled RP-1[6]
Second stage
Engines1 Merlin 1D Vacuum
Thrust934 kN (210,000 lbf)[2]
FuelLOX / RP-1

Falcon 9 Block 5 is a two-stage-to-orbit medium lift launch vehicle designed and manufactured by SpaceX in the United States. It is the fifth version of Falcon 9 Full Thrust. It is powered by Merlin engines, also developed by SpaceX, burning liquid oxygen (LOX) and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) propellants.

SpaceX announced in 2017 that Falcon 9 Block 5 version has now succeeded the transitional Block 4. The largest changes between Block 3 and Block 5 are higher thrust on all of the engines and improvements on landing legs. Additionally, numerous small changes will help streamline recovery and re-usability of first-stage boosters. Alterations are focused on increasing the speed of production and efficiency of re-usability. SpaceX aims to fly each Block 5 booster ten times with only inspections in between, and up to 100 times with refurbishment.[7]

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.[8][9]


The Block 5 design changes are principally[citation needed] 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.[10]

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).[7] 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.[11][12]
  • up to 100 uses with refurbishment.[12][11]
  • a reusable heat shield protecting the engines and plumbing at the base of the rocket;
  • more temperature-resistant cast and machined titanium grid fins;[13]
  • 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 valves[which?] for higher levels and much longer duration.
  • Redesigned composite overwrapped pressure vessels for helium, named COPV 2.0, to avoid oxygen freezing inside the structure of the tanks that lead to rupture.

For rapid reusability:

  • reduced refurbishment between flights.[12]
  • a set of retractable landing legs for rapid recovery and shipping.[14]
  • The Octaweb structure is bolted together instead of welded, reducing manufacturing time.[15]

Human rating[edit]

NASA currently requires seven flights without major design changes before the vehicle can be certified for human spaceflight for carrying NASA astronauts.[16][17] The initial Block 5 boosters did not have the newly redesigned composite overwrapped pressure vessel (COPV) tanks,[16] the first booster to include the new COPV tanks was booster B1047 on the Es'hail 2 mission on November 15, 2018, with the second flight of a booster with the COPV tanks being CRS-16/B1050, which was launched for the first time on December 5, 2018.[17]

The Block 5 design is planned to launch astronauts for the first time in May 2020, on a NASA-contracted flight labelled Crew Dragon Demo-2.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Falcon User's Guide" (PDF). 14 January 2019. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "Falcon 9". SpaceX. 2012-11-16. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d "Capabilities & Services (2016)". SpaceX. 2012-11-28. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  4. ^ SpaceX. "Bangabandhu Satellite-1 Mission". Retrieved February 2, 2019 – via YouTube.
  5. ^ SpaceX. "FALCON 9". SpaceX. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  6. ^ Elon Musk [@elonmusk] (2015-12-17). "-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 19 December 2015 – via Twitter.
  7. ^ a b Clark, Stephen (2017-04-04). "Musk previews busy year ahead for SpaceX". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 7 April 2018.
  8. ^ Ralph, Eric (2018-06-05). "SpaceX will transition all launches to Falcon 9 Block 5 rockets after next mission". TESLARATI.com. Retrieved 2019-02-26.
  9. ^ Shanklin, Emily (2018-06-29). "Dragon Resupply Mission (CRS-15)". SpaceX. Retrieved 2019-02-26.
  10. ^ NASA (February 17, 2017). "NASA Holds Pre-launch Briefing at Historic Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center". Youtube.
  11. ^ a b SpaceX Test-Fires New Falcon 9 Block 5 Rocket Ahead of Maiden Flight (Updated). Robin Seemangal, Popular Mechanics. 4 May 2018.
  12. ^ a b c SpaceX is about to land a whole lot more rockets. Loren Grush, The Verge. 22 July 2018.
  13. ^ Musk, Elon (24 Jun 2017). "Flying with larger & significantly upgraded hypersonic grid fins. Single piece cast & cut titanium. Can take reentry heat with no shielding". @elonmusk. Retrieved 2018-03-16.
  14. ^ "SpaceX Test-Fires New Falcon 9 Block 5 Rocket Ahead of Maiden Flight (Updated)". Popular Mechanics. 4 May 2018.
  15. ^ "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. 24 April 2018.
  16. ^ a b Clark, Stephen. "New helium tank for SpaceX crew launches still waiting to fly – Spaceflight Now". Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  17. ^ a b "SpaceX landing mishap won't affect upcoming launches". SpaceNews.com. 2018-12-05. Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  18. ^ "NASA, Partners Update Commercial Crew Launch Dates – Commercial Crew Program". blogs.nasa.gov. Retrieved 2019-02-26.

External links[edit]