An updated iteration of the Falcon 9 rocket has returned from its maiden flight, delivering a Bangladeshi telecommunications satellite into orbit.
The Block 5 completed lift off at the Kennedy Space Centre last Friday afternoon and within 9 minutes, its booster component landed safely on a platform vessel in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The Block 5 is intended to complete ten launch-and-land cycles before requiring maintenance. Previous prototypes of the Falcon 9 were unable to withstand more than two launches before major service work was necessary.
SpaceX founder, Elon Musk, hopes the Block 9 will be a major stepping stone towards the ever-elusive goal of launching the same orbital class rocket twice in 24 hours. Although this would have a massive impact on SpaceX’s entire business model, Musk reemphasised the importance of realistic expectations. He stated customers would not see a drop in prices until the sunken costs in the development of the Falcon rocket technology have been recovered.
SpaceX is now looking ahead to the next step in building a reusable fleet – the upper stage of the rocket. This compartment carries the payload into orbit and is jettisoned from the rocket mid-flight. The development team has tested a ‘catching’ method where the upper stage is deployed with parafoils as it falls and secured by a ship with a large net. A successful retrieval has yet to be completed.
Image: SpaceX – Falcon9
This story is taken from the 18 May 2018 edition of The Warren Centre’s Prototype newsletter. Sign up for the Prototype here.