SpaceX expects the Merlin 1D to launch on Falcon 9 Flight 6 sometime in 2013

SpaceX's Merlin 1D engine has completed a full mission duration firing today at the company's rocket development facility in Texas.

The Merlin 1D engine is the successor to the line of Merlin engines that were used on the Falcon 9 rocket's first three flights. It is expected to be the most efficient booster engine ever created, achieving a vacuum thrust-to-weight ratio over 150. However, it is still capable of carrying astronauts because of its ability to uphold safety and structural margins.

The Merlin 1D achieved a full mission duration firing for 185 seconds with 147,000 pounds of thrust. This is exactly what is needed for a Falcon 9 launch. The Merlin 1D also completed multiple restarts at target thrust and specific impulse.

"This is another important milestone in our efforts to push the boundaries of space technology," said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO. "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 became the first private rocket company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). After NASA retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011, SpaceX stepped up to provide transportation to the ISS for American astronauts. A Merlin engine was used to launch the Falcon 9, which sent the unmanned Dragon capsule to the ISS this year.

With the Dragon mission being a success, SpaceX will now look forward to hearing from NASA about 12 additional missions to the ISS. While these missions will be unmanned and sent for the purpose of re-supplying the ISS, SpaceX is currently working on a manned version for carrying astronauts.

SpaceX expects the Merlin 1D to launch on Falcon 9 Flight 6 sometime in 2013.

Check out the video below to see the full mission duration firing firsthand.

Source: SpaceX

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