Though the Falcon 9 Block 5 was designed with human spaceflight in mind, NASA will require seven successful flights of the Block 5, with no significant changes to the rocket's configuration, before allowing humans on board.
Falcon 9 Block 5 is created to handle 10 or more flights with only "very limited refurbishment", according to SpaceX, this being part of the company's "rapid reusability and extremely high reliability" goals.
Being able to launch, land and relaunch with minimal refurbishment between flights has been a central focus for SpaceX.
SpaceX will launch the Bangabandhu Satellite-1 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. With periodic refurbishment, a single first-stage booster could be capable of executing on the order of 100 flights before its retirement, he said. The first stage of the Falcon 9 blasted off, sent its payload on the way to orbit and then began to head back to Earth for a landing, this time on the Atlantic-based droneship "Of Course I Still Love You".
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The debut mission will launch Bangabandhu Satellite-1, a telecommunications satellite for the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission. His goal is to launch the same booster twice within 24 hours, perhaps next year.
For this new model, SpaceX enhanced engine performance, strengthened various parts of the rocket and improved the landing gear system. That was the final year of NASA's Space Shuttle program.
Besides missions to the space station, the new rocket will be used to launch U.S. Air Force global positioning satellites and other high-value, military and national security payloads. The new version of the rocket is outfitted with upgrades created to make it more durable so it can be reused as many as 10 times, dramatically cutting the costs of space missions. The company will also have to cover the not-inconsequential development costs for the BFR and for SpaceX's Starlink broadband satellite constellation.
He said the marginal cost of a orbital rocket launch could eventually fall to a slim fraction of that figure, but he cautioned that SpaceX still had to cover fixed costs.