SpaceX Fires Up Falcon 9-R in a Long Duration Test

by Nancy Atkinson on June 11, 2013

Last week, SpaceX fired up a new version of the Falcon 9 for a short 10-second test fire. Now, they’ve completed a long-duration fire, lasting 112 seconds. The test was of the first stage of the F9-R, an advanced prototype for the world’s first reusable rocket. The test took place at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas. SpaceX noted that unlike airplanes, a rocket’s thrust increases with altitude, and the F9-R generates just over a million pounds of thrust at sea level (“enough to lift skyscraper,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said via Twitter) but gets up to 1.5 million pounds of thrust in the vacuum of space.

Falcon 9-R 112-second test fire. Via SpaceX/YouTube.

Falcon 9-R 112-second test fire. Via SpaceX/YouTube.

The rocket engines used on the test is the same as what’s used on the Grasshopper, which is the 10-story Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle that SpaceX has designed to test the technologies needed to return a rocket back to Earth intact. While the Grasshopper uses just one Merlin 1D engine, the Falcon 9-R uses nine.

SpaceX hasn’t posted any details about the 9-R on their website, but they have said the Merlin 1-D’s 150:1 thrust-to-weight ratio would be the highest ever achieved for a rocket engine.


Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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