If Wile E. Coyote had one of these rocket engines strapped to his back, he might just have caught that pesky Roadrunner. Alas for the cartoon critter, SpaceX and not ACME devised the Merlin 1D, which the commercial spaceflight company is billing as the most efficient booster rocket engine ever built.
Luckily for us, there’s footage of the Merlin 1D test firing for 185 seconds at the SpaceX rocket development facility in MacGregor, Texas (see video below) and it’s anything but a cartoon. The rocket engine is an upgrade of the Merlin 1C boosters that have lifted three SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets carrying Dragon capsules into space, including last month’s successful and history-making rendezvous with the International Space Station.
This week’s test firing of the Merlin 1D generated 147,000 pounds of thrust, “the full duration and power required for a Falcon 9 rocket launch,” according to DiscoveryNews.
The next generation of Falcon 9 rockets will be powered by nine Merlin 1D engines that can generated about 1.5 million pounds of thrust during launch, the site reported.
“This is another important milestone in our efforts to push the boundaries of space technology. With the Merlin 1D powering the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, SpaceX will be capable of carrying a full range of payloads to orbit,” SpaceX co-founder and chief executive Elon Musk said in a statement after the engine test.
In May, SpaceX became the first commercial company to send a spacecraft on a docking mission to the ISS. Nine Merlin 1C engines sent the company’s Dragon capsule on its way on May 22 following an aborted launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida on May 19.
The SpaceX Dragon capsule, carrying about 1,200 pounds of supplies for the ISS crew, was captured by space station’s Expedition crew on May 25 following a journey that took three days, six hours, and change. The spacecraft departed the space lab, de-orbited and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on May 31.
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