WASHINGTON – SpaceX boss Elon Musk went into detail on changes to the latest version of the Falcon 9 on May 10, including the redesign of a pressure vessel involved in the 2016 launch of the missile's pre-launch.
In a meeting with reporters, hours before the scrubbed launch of the first Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket, Musk said the Block 5 was "the most reliable rocket that was ever built"
"That's the intent," he said. "I hope fate does not punish me for those words, but that's definitely the intention, and I think our most conservative customers agree." [See the Evolution of SpaceX’s Rockets in Pictures]
A Last-Minute Glitch On May 1
Lessons from 2016
Musk said SpaceX has made great efforts to create extremely reliable COPVs or composite jacketed pressure vessels used to store helium in order to pressurize the fuel tanks in the second stage of the launcher. In September 2016, a Falcon 9 exploded during preparations for a static fire test and destroyed a telecommunications satellite for the Israeli fleet operator Spacecom.
SpaceX traced the cause with liquid oxygen in the upper stage tank trapped between the COPV envelope and the liner, igniting either friction or other mechanisms. Since then, SpaceX has been working to redesign these pressure vessels in collaboration with NASA to address the Authority's concerns about using this design in subsequent Falcon 9 commercial staggering operations.
"This is by far the most advanced pressure vessel ever." Musk said. I've personally gone through the design, I can not count how many times, the top engineers at SpaceX have been tormented … I think we're in a good situation. "
Musk said the COPVs Now you have a bursting pressure "more than twice as much as they actually load on the pad." SpaceX has a contingency design that would include switching from high-strength carbon fiber to an aluminum liner to the superalloy Inconel, but that is "unlikely," Musk said.
New and Improved
While block numbering I suggest this is the fifth iteration of the Falcon 9, Musk said that the block 5 is "probably the version 6 of Falcon 9" based on how improvements made over the course of the year Time was made.
"The word 'block' is a bit weird He said:" Muscle said that each of the nine Merlin engines that powered the first stage of the Falcon 9 now has an increase in thrust up Sea level has increased by 8 percent to 190,000 pounds. The only vacuum-optimized Merlin engine on Falcon 9's second stage has a 5 percent boost to 220,000 pounds, he says. In comparison, the Block 5 Falcon 9 is about twice as powerful as the first-launched Falcon 9, a demonstration replenishment mission for NASA in 2010. The Merlin engines in this first version had 95,000 pounds of thrust for each first-stage engine and 92,500 pounds of thrust for the second stage engine.
The first stage of the Block 5 missiles are designed to be far more reusable than previous versions, which have so far flown only twice before retirement.
"In principle, we could probably replicate Block 4 more than ten times, but with a decent amount of work between each flight," Musk said. "The key to Block 5 is that it can carry 10 or more flights without any retrofits between flights, the only thing that needs to be changed is to recharge and fly again."
After a few renovations, a block 5 first The stage should be able to launch 100 times, Musk said.
SpaceX Block 5 Falcon 9 has been designed in addition to greater reusability to meet NASA's commercial crew and national safety criteria. It was also designed for easier manufacturing.
Musk said the Octave structure of the Falcon 9, which supports all nine first-stage engines and provides for compartmentalization in case one or more errors occur, is now much stronger. The octaweb is made with screwed instead of welded aluminum and has a larger thermal protection to prevent melting, he says.
SpaceX put locking mechanisms on the landing missiles of the Falcon 9, so the vehicle does not have to rely on external terminals for jamming ocean platform landings, Musk said.
SpaceX also upgraded the rocket's avionics and retains the titanium grid fins, he said. The Falcon 9 had previously used aluminum fins to direct the first stage of the Falcon 9 to earth, but SpaceX changed the on block 3 to titanium after the aluminum fins went up in flames upon reentry.
Musk said the missile's intermediate layer has a hydrophobic thermal protection Developed by SpaceX, which is highly reusable and requires no paint. Between the first and the second stage of the rocket, which are painted white, reminds the deep black intermediate stage of carbon fiber to the first rocket of SpaceX, the Falcon 1.
"Of course, the aesthetics plays a minor role in rocket design I still like the The fact that we have a black intermediate for nostalgic reasons, "said Musk.
Falcon 9 Block 6
By keeping the Falcon 9 design static, SpaceX can spend more time and effort on its Big Falcon Rocket and Starlink satellite constellations. Musk and other SpaceX officials have repeatedly described Block 5 as a final draft, but Musk hinted that even smaller improvements could be made to the rocket.
SpaceX engineers could squeeze out another 2 percent additional thrust from the first stage, another 5 percent from the second stage compared to Block 4, he said. Musk said the rocket could see "minor improvements" for better manufacturability, reflation and reliability provided they are supported by our major customers in the commercial satellite launch, NASA and the Air Force.
He stressed that further changes were needed
"There will not be a block 6," Musk said. "We intend to stabilize ourselves on the Block 5 platform and have no major improvements."
This story was provided by SpaceNews, which deals with all aspects of the space industry.