May 13th, 2018
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — With the Bangabandhu-1 satellite encapsulated on top, SpaceX launched its Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket into space. The company calls this the last major upgrade of the vehicle that first debuted in 2010. Liftoff took place at 4:14 p.m. EDT (20:14 GMT) May 11, 2018.
The Block 5 features a number of upgrades, including increased thrust, more thermal protection on the first stage to help with recovery and much more. SpaceX has said more than 100 changes have been made to the Falcon 9. Probably the most visible is the black interstage, landing legs and raceway (a protected path running down the side of the booster that contains cables and pipes). Moreover, the “octoweb,” the part at the base of the vehicle that houses the nine Merlin 1D engines, has been bolted on instead of welded, to allow for easier inspection.
“The key to Block 5 is that it’s designed to do 10 or more flights with no refurbishment between each flight—or at least not scheduled refurbishment between each flight,” said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk during a media conference call before the launch. “The only thing that needs to change is you reload propellant and fly again.”
Musk said he believes the Block 5 design is capable of at least 100 flights before being retired. In fact, he said SpaceX plans to launch a single Block 5 Falcon 9 twice within 24 hours sometime in 2019.
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The following photos were taken by Ryan Chylinski, Michael Howard, Michael Deep and Scott Schilke of SpaceFlight Insider’s visual team.
Video courtesy of SpaceFlight Insider