Elon Musk's SpaceX has a launch scheduled this weekend, which will see the company use a Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket for the first time. This is the final iteration of the Falcon 9 rocket, one that could possibly be reused up to 10 times before needing refurbishment.
In spite of Falcon 9 being SpaceX's go-to rocket for launches, having accomplished several successful deliveries and landings, till now, they were all in their beta phase, notes a report by Cnet. The different iterations of the rocket are described by their Block numbers and this weekend's launch will debut the Block 5 rocket- the fully realized final form of the Falcon 9.
The launch will carry Bangladesh's Bangabandhu Satellite-1.
So far the Block 3 and Block 4 rockets, sometimes called Full Thrust rockets carry their payload to orbit, and land. After refurbishment, they are flown again a second time. So far Falcon 9 rockets are only reused once, notes the report. The Block 5 version, while staying largely the same has undergone a few tweaks to give it better control during descent and also adds a bit more power to the Merlin engines.
In spite of the fact that Falcon 9s were originally designed to fly a "few times", SpaceX has not launched a rocket more than twice, notes the report. All that could change with the Block 5 version of the Falcon 9. It is designed to launch, land, and repeat 10 times in a row without needing major refurbishment. After the tenth mission, it will be taken in for repairs and reconditioning. This process can be repeated 10 times. That means a Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket can be theoretically flown 100 times before retiring, notes the report.
SpaceX plans to take astronauts to the ISS for the first time later this year aboard a Block 5 Falcon 9, but NASA reportedly requires the space company to prove its flight worthiness by carrying out seven successful launches first. Only then will human passengers be allowed on it. The Dragon capsule that SpaceX has ready for ISS missions is as of now the only one that can bring back any significant amounts of cargo from the ISS to Earth, claims SpaceX.
The launch is scheduled from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 10, from Pad 39A.