Euroconsult: Five Minutes With SpaceX

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Amy Svitak writes:

Aviation Week & Space Technology: When does SpaceX plan to launch the SES-8 mission?

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell: Mid next-year. It's July some time, I just don't know the date.

AWST: What is the status of development of Falcon 9 v1.1's payload fairing and when will it fly?

GS: The design is done, the first unit is built and we will start testing in the next month or so. I've got to fly it in at least Q2 next year, for [Canada's] Cassiope.

AWST: Where is SpaceX in terms of testing the more powerful Merlin 1D engine?

GS: We're in qualification testing on Merlin 1D, we'll be testing that engine through the end of the year. Whenever we fly [an] engine, we've got thousands and thousands of seconds on it, and we want to make sure we do the same here. But that engine is doing a qual run right now.

AWST: When do you plan to complete work on modifications to the launch site at the Cape?

GS: The major upgrades are, well, we'll be building a heavy [lift launch vehicle] site there and we are upgrading the launch platform to accommodate the new version of the Falcon 9. So it's more tankage, probably more pumps. We're always innovating to increase our rapidity, our pace of launch as well.

AWST: What about your new payload processing facility there -- are you going to put Astrotech out of business?

GS: I don't have any intention of putting anyone -- well, I don't have any intention of putting Astrotech out of business. They have a loyal following, we just want to make sure we can offer a service for our customers. We are building a facility that can launch our commitments and provide the fueling. They've got more chambers, more spaces than I have, so I don't want to say they're comparable.

AWST: Why the octagonal arrangement on the engines on the upgrade?

GS: As opposed to the tic-tac-toe? You actually want the engines around the perimeter at the tank, otherwise you're carrying that load from those engines that aren't on the skin, you've got to carry them out to the skin, cause that's the primary load path for the launch vehicle. So you really want those engines out on the skin anyhow.

AWST: Why wasn't that done initially?

GS: Well, we learned a lot of stuff [with Falcon 9].

AWST: As a percentage, how much difference is there between Falcon 9 and Falcon 9 v.1.1?

GS: It's the same tank architecture, it's the same fundamental process on the interstage, I believe it's the same evolved subsystem. The engines are largely the same. Even though its more thrust, the chamber geometry is the same. The chamber itself is the same, the difference is instead of plating it, we're brazing on jackets. The nozzle is different. We use a tube wall nozzle on the [Merlin] 1C and we're using the milled copper for the nozzle extension. It's a much higher thrust engine but surprisingly a lot of the infrastructure of that engine is the same.

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