An explosion occurred on Saturday, Nov 4, 2017 during a test of a “Block 5” Merlin engine, which will be used in a future generation of the company’s Falcon 9 rockets.
It was a engine qualification test and no one was injured.
The block 5 Falcon 9 will have higher thrust on all of the engines and improvements on landing legs compared to the block 4 Falcon 9 Full Thrust. There are also a number of small changes to streamline recovery and re-usability of first-stage boosters. Alterations to the launch vehicle are primarily focused on increasing the speed of production and efficiency of re-usability. SpaceX aims to fly each Block 5 first stage ten times with only inspections in between, and up to 100 times with refurbishment.
Block 5 changes are mainly driven by upgrades needed for the 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.
Block 5 will feature:
For increased payload:
* 7–8% more thrust by uprating the engines,
* an improved flight control system for an optimized angle of attack on descent, lowering landing fuel requirements.
For rapid reusability:
Forged, more temperature-resistant titanium grid fins,
a thermal protection coating on the first stage to limit reentry heating damage,
a set of retractable landing legs for rapid recovery and shipping,
a reusable heat shield protecting the engines and plumbing at the base of the rocket.
For reusability endurance:
Redesigned and requalified valves for higher levels and much longer duration.
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