Space Exploration Technologies’ (SpaceX) has announced that its latest version of its Merlin first stage and booster engine, the Merlin 1, has achieved flight qualification, follwing a 28 test qualification program. The Merlin 1D accumulated 1,970 seconds of total test time, the equivalent run time of over 10 full mission durations. The program included four tests at or above the power (147,000lb of thrust) and duration (185 seconds) required for a Falcon 9 rocket launch. The Merlin 1D engine was also tested at propellant inlet and operating conditions that were well outside the bounds of expected flight conditions.
“The Merlin 1D successfully performed every test throughout this extremely rigorous qualification program,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and chief designer in a news release. “With flight qualification now complete, we look forward to flying the first Merlin 1D engines on Falcon 9′s Flight 6 this year.”
With nine Merlin 1Ds on the first stage, the Falcon 9 rocket will produce nearly 1.5 million pounds of thrust in a vacuum. While the engine uses a simple if slightly less efficient gas-generator cycle, the Merlin 1D is noted by the firm as having a vacuum thrust-to-weight ratio exceeding 150, the best of any liquid rocket engine in history. The new engine is designed for improved manufacturability by using higher efficiency processes, increased robotic construction and reduced parts count.
Testing took place at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas. Film of qualification test courtesy: SpaceX