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SpaceX Milestone: Merlin 1D is qualified for flight
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SpaceX released a press statement on March 20th to announce that the Merlin 1D testing period has concluded and that the upgraded Merlin engine is qualified to fly on the Falcon 9 v1.1 and upcoming Falcon Heavy. 

[quote]Hawthorne, CA – Space Exploration Technologies’ (SpaceX) Merlin 1D engine has achieved flight qualification, a major milestone for the next generation Merlin engine. Through 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, and is now fully qualified to fly on the Falcon 9 rocket.

The program included four tests at or above the power (147,000 pounds 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.

SpaceX’s testing program demonstrated a ratio of 4:1 for critical engine life parameters such as firing duration and restart capacity to the engine’s expected flight requirements. The industry standard is 2:1.

“The Merlin 1D successfully performed every test throughout this extremely rigorous qualification program,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and chief designer. “With flight qualification now complete, we look forward to flying the first Merlin 1D engines on Falcon 9’s Flight 6 this year.”

The Merlin 1D builds on the technology of the Merlin engines used on the first five flights of Falcon 9. With nine Merlin 1Ds on the first stage, the Falcon 9 rocket will produce nearly 1.5 million pounds of thrust in a vacuum. The Merlin 1D has a vacuum thrust-to-weight ratio exceeding 150, the best of any liquid rocket engine in history. This enhanced design makes the Merlin 1D the most efficient booster engine ever built, while still maintaining the structural and thermal safety margins needed to carry astronauts. Additionally, 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.[/quote]
Statement From http://www.spacex.com/press.php?page=20130320

Over the course of the testing SpaceX have released several videos on their YouTube channel of the testing you can view them below, I do however suggest turning your volume down before pressing play as rockets are loud and this is accurately represented in these videos.

Merlin 1D 185 second burn test

Merlin 1D Flight Qualification 75 second burn test

SpaceX also use one of the test Merlin 1D engines on their Grasshopper test vehicle  Grasshopper has remained the same hardware over all currently completed tests, their latest Grasshopper flight can be seen below with closeup views of an early production Merlin 1D.

Grasshopper makes a 80 meter high flight, hover and then rocket powered landing

The first Falcon 9 v1.1 flight will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base on June 18th. The Falcon 9 v1.1 is the first rocket to use the Merlin 1D, the other rocket being the in development Falcon Heavy. On the first flight of the Falcon 9 v1.1 SpaceX intend to test landing systems for the first stage by using the main engines to slow down its decent into re-entry and if the structure survives the re-entry perform a soft landing test on the ocean.

Image Credit: SpaceX
Video Credit: SpaceX 

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About The Author
Chris Trudgen
I am a Freelance Photographer from the South West UK with a passion for space, particularly the rockets that take us there. When I am not doing my day job I am reading up on the engineering used in rocket design and most likely playing Kerbal Space Program while doing so.

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