Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) announced today that it has completed the qualification testing program of its Merlin 1C next generation liquid fueled rocket booster engine for use in the Falcon 1 rocket. Tests were conducted at the SpaceX Texas Test Facility near Waco, TX, on a Merlin 1C configured for powering the first stage of a Falcon 1 rocket.
The single Merlin 1C will power SpaceXs next Falcon 1 mission, scheduled to lift off in Spring of 2008 from the SpaceX launch complex in the Central Pacific atoll of Kwajalein. The far larger Falcon 9 uses nine Merlins on the first stage, and a single Merlin in vacuum configuration powers the Falcon 9 second stage.
The Merlin 1C is an improved version of the Merlin 1A ablatively cooled engine, which lofted the Falcon 1 on its first flight in March 2006 and second flight in March 2007. The regeneratively cooled Merlin 1C uses rocket propellant grade kerosene (RP-1), a refined form of jet fuel, to first cool the combustion chamber and nozzle before being combined with the liquid oxygen to create thrust. This cooling allows for higher performance without significantly increasing engine mass.
In its Falcon 1 configuration, Merlin 1C has a thrust at sea level of 78,000 lbs, a vacuum thrust of 90,000 pounds and a vacuum specific impulse of 301 seconds. In generating this thrust, Merlin consumes 300 lbs/second of propellant and the chamber and nozzle, cooled by 90 lbs/sec of kerosene, are capable of absorbing 10 MW of heat energy.(press release)