Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Private Space Flight

Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX) reports that it has completed development of its Merlin 1C next generation liquid fueled rocket booster engine. It is among the highest performing gas generator cycle kerosene engines ever built, exceeding the performance of the Boeing Delta II main engine and the Lockheed Atlas II main engine. It's performance is about the same as that of the Saturn V F-1 engine.

The Merlin 1C in its Falcon 9 first stage configuration has a thrust at sea level of 95,000 pounds. The Merlin 1C will power SpaceX's next Falcon 1 mission, scheduled to lift off in early 2008 from the SpaceX launch complex in the Central Pacific atoll of Kwajalein. SpaceX's far larger Falcon 9 rocket, scheduled for its first launch in late 2008, will employ nine Merlin engines on its first stage, and one on the second stage. The Falcon 9 will produce over a million pounds of thrust: about four times the thrust of a Boeing 747. The Falcon 9, besides launching unmanned satellites, is designed to eventually loft the six passenger Dragon spaceship, currently being developed by SpaceX and planned for a test flight as early as late 2008.

The Merlin engine is the first new American booster engine developed in the last ten years. In 2008, SpaceX expects to manufacture about 50 Merlin 1C engines, a number that exceeds the booster engine output of any country except Russia.

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