Improved Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket debuts

On May 11th SpaceX Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket successfully launched Bangabandhu Satellite-1 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The mission served as the first flight of Falcon 9 Block 5, the final substantial upgrade to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

The Block 5 is designed to be capable of 10 or more flights with very limited refurbishment as SpaceX continues to strive for rapid reusability and extremely high reliability.

According to SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk, the Block 5 is designed to be "the most reliable rocket ever assembled".

The Block 5's first stage now have an 8 percent thrust increase at sea level producing a total 1,710,000 pounds force, with each of the nine Merlin 1D engines producing 190,000 pounds force.

The Block 4 Merlin 1D engines featured constant chamber pressure. While the Block 5 features a variable chamber pressure to maintain a constant thrust.

The single vacuum-optimized Merlin engine on Falcon 9’s second stage has a 5 percent thrust increase to 220,000 pounds-force, he said.

Falcon 9’s octaweb structure that supports the all nine first stage engines is now a bolted structure instead of welded, easing manufacturing and inspections.

Another improvement is the redesigned composite over wrapped pressure vessels, used to store helium for pressurizing the propellant tanks in the second stage.

The COPVs were implicated in the rocket’s pre-launch explosion in September 2016, when a Falcon 9 exploded during preparations for a static fire test, destroying the payload and severely damaging the launch pad.