SpaceX debuting Block 5 first stage

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SpaceX is planning to launch a satellite for Bangladesh later today (May 10th). 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.

The cargo is Bangabandhu Satellite-1, and the launch will take place from Pad 39A in Florida with a launch window opening at 16.12 pm Florida-time.

What’s essentially different with the upgraded Block 5 first stages, however, is that they are deliberately designed to fly 10 times with just brief inspections between landing and lift-off, and up to 100 times with some refurbishment involved. The ‘older’ version of the Falcon 9 that have flown recently were Block 3 or 4 designs and for “full thrust” operation.

“Block 5 basically summarises all that we learned on reusability,” Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX’s VP/build and flight reliability, said last month, saying that it incorporates some design tweaks to improve reusability, while adding a little more potential power and improved control on descent.

Importantly, it will be a Block 5 design that will be used to carry astronauts to the International Space Station. But first it needs at least seven successful launches before NASA will approve the rocket for human cargo.


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