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The Falcon Heavy rocket with 27 merlin engines

Myths Smashed By The Falcon Heavy Launch

When SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launched it smashed a number of hard to die myths about how you build a reliable space rocket.

One persistent myth on the internet among many rocket fans is that the Russian moon rocket, which competed against the American moon rocket, the Saturn V failed because it had too many engines. The N1 had 30 NK-15 rocket engines on the first stage which had to fire at the same time on launch. In contrast the Saturn V had 5 large F1 engines.

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First stage of Soviet N1 moon rocket, with 30 NK-15 rocket engines.
  • More flexibility. You can use the same engines on rocket of different size as well as on different stages on the same rocket.
  • Throttle control. Adjusting the thrust of a rocket engine is difficult and easily complicates it. It is much easier to solve this problem by simply shutting down multiple engines. To land a rocket stage you need to throttle down a lot. Hence this is a major requirement for a rocket intended for reuse.
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Blue Origin’s planned New Glenn, reusable rocket, using 7 BE-4 rocket engines in the first stage.

Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.

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