SpaceX's New Spin on Falcon 9

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SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell talked about the upgraded version of the Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket that is expected to debut this summer, complete with fully optimized Merlin 1D engines. In a luncheon talk at the Satellite 2015 show in Washington March 17 Shotwell detailed how the modifications will fit into the design of the Falcon Heavy launcher the company hopes will see its first flight later this year:

"In order to launch and get operational with the current Falcon 9 that we're flying, the v1.1, we needed to draw a line on engine development. But what we did see during the development of our Merlin engines ... was that there was more performance to go get, but we fundamentally ran out of time. We needed to get this vehicle to the pad and fly and make our customer commitments. So what we've done is we've gone back, got that extra performance from those engines, and we're going to place them on the new vehicle, the new spin. I don't know what we're going to call it. Enhanced Falcon 9, Falcon 9 v1.2, Full-Performance Falcon 9.

"So, we got the higher thrust engines, finished development on that, we're in qual. What we're also doing is modifying the structure a little bit. I want to be building only two versions, or two cores in my factory, any more than that would not be great from a customer perspective. So Falcon Heavy is two different cores, the inner core and then the two side boosters, and the new single stick Falcon 9 will basically be a Falcon Heavy side booster. So, we're building two types of cores and that's to make sure we don't have a bunch of different configurations of the vehicle around the factory. I think it will streamline operations and really allow us to hit a cadence of one or two a month at every launch site we have.

"It's about a 30% increase in performance, maybe a little more. What it does is it allows us to land the first stage for GTO missions on the drone ship."

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