Elon Musk’s SpaceX is taking another step forward to launch astronauts into space. SpaceX is set to launch the latest and most advanced version of its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket that is named the Block 5. It is another rocket launch, however, it should serve as proving ground for the Block 5 which is referred to as the ‘finished version’ of its reusable Falcon 9 rockets. The Block 5 is made to last for a very long time since it can be used to carry astronauts to the International Space Station.
The Block 5 will take off from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. On the top of Falcon 9 will be the Bangabandhu 1, which is a Bangladeshi communication satellite. Bangabandhu 1 will be provide broadcasting and telecommunication services to rural areas and direct-to-home television services across Bangladesh. If everything went according to the plan, it will be a green signal for SpaceX’s original plan of conducting manned missions with rockets which can be reused for as many as 100 times in a single lifespan.
SpaceX also conducted a successful static test fire of the Block 5 and said that the rocket has many upgrades as compared to its predecessor, Block 4. The landing legs of Block 5 are stronger than before so that it can have better landing control and can be completely reusable. The company’s plan is to launch the first stage 10 times without the need of refurbishment. However, to ensure the health of the rocket, some inspection will be done before returning the rocket to the launchpad.
After the completion of 10 flights, the Block 5 will get a thorough inspection and will be repaired. It will then again be used for 10 more flights. The rocket can be reused for 100 times if everything goes according to plan. Andy Lambert, the vice president of production for SpaceX, said for now if the rocket makes 10 flights successfully it will be considered a success. Lambert said, “Block 5 is being qualified for 10+ flights, but we’ll continue to expand for more.” SpaceX’s Block 3 and Block 4 rockets were only able to take two flights after undergoing refurbishment. The Block 5 has received many upgrades which have improved the rocket’s performance. Such as the rocket’s heat shield, additional thermal protection coating which prevents damages from heat upon re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere and retractable landing legs.
In 2016, Musk described the upgrades as “significantly improving performance & ease of reusability.” Their ultimate goal is to cut down on the pricing of rocket launches without needing to build a new one for each mission. Musk said that cutting down on the labour costs will also help reduce the cost of each rocket by 30%. If the cost on each rocket is reduced, it will allow SpaceX to complete launch missions more often. SpaceX has also received approval to build the BFR at the Port of Los Angeles. This has also strengthened Musk’s plan of sending humans to other planets and developing a colony on Mars.
The BFR consists of a spaceship and the booster and has a height of almost 106 meters. As always, Musk has set a timeline for BFR when it will be ready to take off. Musk said, “We are building the first Mars or interplanetary ship, and I think well be able to do short trips, short up and down flights, by the first half of next year,’ Musk said at the South by Southwest technology and culture festival in Austin, Texas, last month. Although sometimes, my timelines are a little, you know…” The Block 5 will also serve as an important milestone to achieve this goal. SpaceX will also need to launch at least seven times to be able to send the passengers to the ISS.