SpaceX continues to push its space dominating agenda forward with its newest test of the 'Merlin 1D" rocket propulsion system. Building on the technology from its previous 3 launches, including the historic launch and recovery of the Dragon capsule, the Merlin 1D has achieved a full mission duration firing and multiple restarts at target thrust and specific impulse (Isp). In other words, the test was highly successful.
"This is another important milestone in our efforts to push the boundaries of space technology," said SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk. "With the Merlin 1D powering the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, SpaceX will be capable of carrying a full range of payloads to orbit." The Merlin 1D will indeed knock out 2 birds with 1 stone. It will offer the pure power that the Falcon Heavy needs to do its missions, but it will also offer performance improvements to the Falcon 9.
With nine Merlins on the first stage, the Falcon 9 rocket will produce nearly 1.5 million pounds of thrust in a vacuum. An enhanced design makes the Merlin 1D the most efficient booster engine ever built, with a vacuum thrust-to-weight ratio exceeding 150, while still maintaining the structural and thermal safety margins needed to carry astronauts. All of this is important going forward because SpaceX really wants the NASA contract to put astronauts on the ISS and maybe even the moon one day.
The new design of the Merlin also will fulfill an extensive manifest of launches and the new engine is designed for improved manufacturability by using higher efficiency processes. It also has increased robotic construction and reduced parts count. Look for SpaceX to continue to push forward and try to cut costs through improved technology in only the way that a private company can. This is why it is important for the private sector to get involved in things that are extremely expensive like the space program.
Firing of the SpaceX Merlin 1D engine!
photo and video courtesy of SpaceX