The whole point of mnogorazovogo rockets comes down to saving money: instead of creating a completely new rocket for each mission, SpaceX can just land the spent first stage of the rocket, to carry out the necessary maintenance of the waste unit, to establish a new payload and re-launch into space. Many experts, including the Executive Director of the company SpaceX Elon musk, conduct as an example a parallel between the reusable rockets and aircraft. Agree, air travel would be much more expensive, if had before each flight to create a new plane.
Until now landing, spent rocket stages, SpaceX, despite its staginess, it must be confessed, did not save the company money. The maximum number of launches already spent stages were reduced to two. And after each run has to involve a Legion of engineers to undertake a thorough and costly inspection and replacement of parts that eat up a portion of the savings earned by the company on the construction of new missiles. A break between runs in this case could drag on for many months.
"It is possible that the restoration of the rockets right now they spend more money than in the construction of new," commented the portal The Verge Greg Autry, assistant Professor, University of southern California, specializing in new space companies.
New stage of Falcon 9 Block 5 will be able to change it. Level passed numerous upgrades aimed at reducing costs of recovery and reducing the time between runs. Externally differs from Block 5 Block 4 only in the presence of the black elements in the design. Changed the color of the landing strut, the intermediate compartment between the levels of titanium stabilizers and the fairing element of the fuselage, protecting the wiring and piping of the rocket. Technical improvements Block 5 received a more powerful Merlin engines, allowing increased thrust of up to 8130 kN compared to the 7600 kN from the previous version. Structurally they are now set so that it is much easier to reach for maintenance. Even got a new heat shielding that protects them from overheating. In addition, the change of titanium lattice stabilizers, which from now on will not be ignited by the return of the stage to the Ground. Thanks to this modernization of the new Falcon 9 will be able to re-start, and within 48 hours of returning to Earth. At least in theory.
If all of these improvements can actually reduce maintenance time of rockets, the Falcon 9, the company will finally be able to start saving money. Besides, Block 5 promises to increase the performance of Falcon 9 without significant inflows in the next major update. All together, this will contribute to obtaining a larger profit company and, as a result, more ambitious plans, including the launch of several thousand satellites to create a new satellite Network and the creation of a new giant rocket BFR, which the company plans to send people to the moon and Mars.
All for the sake of Mars
According to earlier statements, the Mask of the Falcon 9 rocket with the Block 5 can be used up to 100 times without significant cost to their service. Admittedly, that statement is rather optimistic, considering that the rocket during takeoff and landing you have to drive faster than the speed of sound, and also be exposed to extremely high temperatures and loads. And yet, when you consider that Musk often likes to exaggerate, it is more a real figure of re-launches of new missiles, according to Andy Lambert, Vice-President of the production Department of SpaceX, will 10. But even the ability to launch the same rocket 10 times will significantly reduce production costs to prepare the Falcon 9.
Simultaneous planting of the two lateral boosters of the first stage of the carrier rocket Falcon Heavy Cape Canaveral
However, increasing the number of possible runs is not enough for saving and accumulation of funds for development. SpaceX will also have to reduce the number of employees.
"Everyone is talking about the plane as a model of mnogorazovogo. But everybody forgets that for the construction of one aircraft does not require an army of employees. This is enough for a few dozen experts".
Excessive labour costs are one of the reasons why NASA closed the space Shuttle program reusable. They were too expensive to run. And because the Block 5 upgrade will reduce the time to recovery steps, it would mean that SpaceX will not need too many employees in order to prepare the rocket for re-runs.
Until the end it remains unclear how long SpaceX will be able to save money in dolgorukovoj the prospect of such changes. The company itself is unlikely to provide any specific figures on how much it spends on its workforce, however, reports that it intends to keep the base cost of the Falcon 9 rocket, which is 62 million dollars, at the same level. The same Otri estimates the cost of production of each of the first stage is a 14 – storey sections of a rocket that will go into space and come back – somewhere in the 30-40 million dollars. Fueling of the launch vehicle is estimated by the Musk of a few hundred thousand dollars. If the company will be able to significantly reduce the cost of their labor power, then this can reduce the manufacturing cost of one rocket nearly half of its current value. However, the same Autry not so optimistic in this forecast. At least not yet.
"I think that in reality we are still far from such performance. But I'm pretty sure this will easily save from 10 to 15 million dollars."
By the way, the forecasts of the same Mask are very similar. He said about 30-percent reduction in costs.
If SpaceX will succeed here, the next challenge for the company will be increasing the frequency of launches. More runs – more than the annual profit. And apparently, SpaceX is already actively working on it. In 2017, the company produced 18 runs, setting a personal record and overtaking the number of launches, many other companies. This year, SpaceX has already made 8 runs. By this time last year there were only 5.
All additional proceeds will go straight to developing the BFR, which SpaceX plans to build at the port of Los Angeles, as well as several thousand satellites that will be needed in the future. Recall that recently, SpaceX received approval communications Commission (FCC) to launch the first constellation of satellites of the future network of Starlink. However, the FCC set the requirement to the company to run at least half of 4425 satellites over the next 6 years. And according to experts, Musk can't run your Network without the level of Block 5.
Another important aspect of the new stage Block 5 is that it largely will not be changed. According to the Mask, this is the last major modernization of missiles, and after it the company is going to focus on the development of the giant rocket BFR.
"This is the upgraded version of the Falcon 9 rocket SpaceX ever created," commented the portal The Verge Laura Forchic, the head of the company Astralytical involved in consultations on space research.
This is exactly what so long dreamed of space Agency NASA: the Falcon 9 with the Block 5 will be used for the delivery of American astronauts to the International space station. In other words, the new version of the missile was built with all the requirements of the space agencies for compliance with all safety standards of manned space flight. However, the stringent requirements of NASA's safety are required to hold a minimum of 7 successful start-up, without making any changes to the design of the rocket before the company Ilona Mask will allow to carry out missions involving astronauts. However, this requirement does not apply to space launch system SLS – it is planned to conduct only one test run, after which the Agency intends to begin to use it for manned missions.
The Launch Of The Falcon 9. Photo with a long exposure
The use of certified NASA rocket can greatly assist SpaceX in attracting new customers. The company has repeatedly been seen in the carrying out of minor changes in the technical features of their rockets between launches, and it unnerved many in the space industry, especially in the market launch of satellites used for national security. NASA and other old men of the space industry, as a rule, rarely making any significant changes in the designs of their rockets, and this often becomes a key factor in the selection of the contractor. With a new rocket, the Falcon 9 Block 5 all the skeptic can evaporate, experts say. And increased productivity will open for the company the desired market of the contracts relating to national security.
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