McGregor TX - Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) conducted the first three-engine firing of its Falcon 9 medium to heavy lift rocket at its Texas Test Facility outside McGregor, on March 8, 2008. At full power the engines generated over 270,000 pounds of force, and consumed 1,050 lbs of fuel and liquid oxygen per second. This three-engine test again sets the record as the most powerful test yet on the towering 235-foot tall test stand. A total of nine Merlin 1C engines will power the Falcon 9 rocket.
The test series continues with the addition of two engines for a total of five, then finally the full compliment of nine engines. With all engines firing, the Falcon 9 can generate over one million pounds of thrust in vacuum - four times the maximum thrust of a 747 aircraft.
"The incremental approach to testing allows us to closely observe how each additional engine influences the entire system," said Tom Mueller, Vice President of Propulsion for SpaceX. "This ensures that we obtain as much data, knowledge and experience as possible as we approach the full nine engine configuration. To date we have not encountered any unexpected interactions between the engines."
The Merlin 1C next generation liquid fueled rocket booster engine is among the highest performing gas generator cycle kerosene engines ever built, exceeding the Boeing Delta II main engine, the Lockheed Atlas II main engine, and on par with the Saturn V F-1 engine. It is the first new American booster engine in a decade and only the second American booster engine since the development of the Space Shuttle Main Engine thirty years ago.
The first Falcon 9 remains on-schedule for delivery to the SpaceX launch site at Space Launch Complex 40, Cape Canaveral, Florida, by the end of 2008.
The Falcon launch vehicle family is designed to provide breakthrough advances in reliability, cost, flight environment and time to launch. The primary design driver is and will remain reliability, as described in more detail below. We recognize that nothing is more important than getting our customer’s spacecraft safely to its intended destination.
Like Falcon 1, Falcon 9 is a two stage, liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosene (RP-1) powered launch vehicle. It uses the same engines, structural architecture (with a wider diameter), avionics and launch system.
Length: 54.3 m (178 ft)
Width: 3.6 m (12 ft)
Mass (LEO, 5m fairing): 325,000 kg (716 klb)
Mass (GTO, 4m fairing): 323,000 kg (713 klb)
Thrust (vacuum): 4.4 MN (1 M lb)