SpaceX’s vice president for build and reliability, Bill Gerstenmaier, participated at Axiom Space’s press conference on May 15 which announced that their second all-commercial mission to the International Space Station (ISS) will take place on May 21st, as previously reported by TESMANIAN. Read more: SpaceX sets new date for second-ever Axiom crew mission to the Space Station –Watch It Live!
During the conference, Mr.Gerstenmaier mentioned that SpaceX is working to certify the Falcon 9 rocket to reuse a record-breaking 20 times. SpaceX’s workhorse rocket has nine Merlin 1D engines powered by a combination of rocket-grade kerosene (known as RP-1) and liquid oxygen (LOX), it is capable of producing over 1.7 million pounds of thrust upon liftoff. The company has really pushed the boundaries of spaceflight, it is currently the only in the world capable of recovering and reusing orbital-class rockets. Rockets throughout history have been discarded after each use which makes spaceflight incredibly expensive. SpaceX achieved reducing the cost of spaceflight by reusing the Falcon 9’s first-stage booster. As of today, the company has performed 230 launches, recovered rockets 191 times, and reused recovered boosters 165 times. This is an incredible achievement. The company has made it routine to recover boosters with propulsive landings soon after deploying payloads to orbit. Boosters in SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Block 5 fleet have been reused dozens of times each; the most times that a particular Falcon 9 rocket has been reused is 15 times.
Mr.Gerstenmaier did not know how many boosters SpaceX has left in its reusable fleet, he only mentioned that engineers evaluated the reused rockets and determined they meet performance requirements for more reflights. “Yeah I don't know the exact number of boosters that we have available but we're able to fly our manifest pretty straight forward,” he said at the press conference, “We're in the process of certifying for Starlink missions booster re-flights up to twenty times. And that gives us a lot of capability to continue to reuse boosters, and continue to keep flying.”
SpaceX aims to launch up to 100 missions in 2023, which is nearly double what it launched in 2022. Reusability will enable the company to complete the ambitious launch manifest. “[...] I think we are able to meet our manifest plus with the boosters we've got in working, and we're kicking up a little bit some of our stage one production here a little bit to support some of our heavy missions,” he said. “We have a couple of Falcon Heavy missions, and those are typically expendable so we need to have boosters ready for those. But I think we have plenty of boosters ready to go fly.”
During the press conference, he also shared that the Axiom Ax-2 mission will use a brand new Falcon 9 rocket that will be recovered by landing it back near the launch pad. SpaceX usually lands rockets at sea on autonomous spaceport droneships and only returns them to land when there is enough fuel left. Gerstenmaier revealed that SpaceX determined that the rockets are capable of returning to land near the launch site, and that the company will begin landing boosters used during crewed missions on terra firma instead of a droneship.
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Featured Images Source: SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.