The Falcon 9 rocket has undergone four major revisions over the last eight years, culminating in the Block 5 rocket. The initial expendable version of the rocket (v1.0) could lift about 10.5 tons to low-Earth orbit. This was a nice, tidy rocket but hardly a superstar.
However, one of the defining features of SpaceX is the company’s ruthless devotion to innovation. And while it may be reasonable to criticize the company for moving too far too quickly and with not quite enough focus on the here and now—when the culture of innovation works, it works.
In just eight years, SpaceX has jumped from the first version of its rocket to the Block 5 rocket. This powerful rocket can lift nearly 23 tons to low-Earth orbit, having undergone hundreds of changes and upgrades since its initial flight. Theoretically, its first stage will be capable of 10 flights before requiring significant refurbishment. It is so capable that even company founder Elon Musk (the high minister of the culture of innovation at SpaceX) says it’s good enough. This is probably the last major revision of the Falcon 9.
During the second flight of the Block 5 variant of the Falcon 9 rocket, talented photographer Trevor Mahlmann was on hand in Florida for the night launch. Some of the images he captured of the rocket’s Merlin 1D engines at launch are the most impressive we’ve ever seen, as are the photos of the rocket going supersonic. We’re left in awe of the photographs—and the rocket itself.