January 20, 2019

SpaceX readies first "block 5" Falcon 9 rocket for launch

10 May 2018, 03:23 | Ross Houston

SpaceX readies first "block 5" Falcon 9 rocket for launch

SpaceX Falcon Heavy

The launch tomorrow will be the debut of the Block 5 Falcon 9 - marking one of the first real tests of the rocket's re-usability.

Musk has said that the Block 5 is the final upgrade to its Falcon 9 rocket system.

Most of the recent Falcon 9 rockets that have managed to land and then fly a second mission after reconditioning have been Block 3 or Block 4 (sometimes called "Full Thrust") rockets.

It will also be the first payload to be launched using the new Block 5 model of the rocket.

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Among the reusability upgrades are an improved heat shield, extra thermal protection coating to limit re-entry heating damage and a set of retractable landing legs for rapid recovery and shipping, which will help cut the turnaround time for launches.

The Block 5 will take off from Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, with the two-hour launch window opening at 4:12p.m. (ET).

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Even the landing legs have been redesigned to allow engineers to retract them after touchdown.

The new rocket also has a redesigned helium pressurant tanks. "That's basically the key thing on block 5".

And the savings could be applied to SpaceX's development of the BFR, or "Big F***ing Rocket", according to the Verge. SpaceX has landed and re-flown numerous Falcon 9 first stages over the past few years, but none of these individual boosters has launched more than twice.

SpaceX just received approval to build the BFR at the Port of Los Angeles, further setting in motion Musk's plan of making humans a "multi-planetary" species, and one day developing a colony on Mars.

SpaceX, which was founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk, who is also the product architect of Tesla, chose to the keep the propellants on the rocket at super-cold temperatures to shrink its size and allow more tanks. Pictured, Falcon Heavy Demo Mission.

SpaceX is now testing a system to recover the fairings of its Falcon 9 rockets. SpaceX has been granted an additional $2.6 billion in 2014 to send NASA astronauts to space, and now, the company is gearing up to send its first people to the International Space Station. If everything goes well, the first BFR flights to Mars could lift off in the mid-2020s, SpaceX representatives have said.

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