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SpaceX’s first Block 5 first stage for its Falcon 9 rocket, designed to fly a minimum of ten times, has returned to port after its first flight last week.
This is the most interesting detail revealed:
While not visible, the most significant improvements are likely to be found at the base of the first stage’s octaweb – now assembled with bolts instead of welds – in the form of a dramatically improved heat shield around its nine Merlin 1D engines (also upgraded, of course). One of the Falcon recovery technicians showed some exceptional interest in the shield and Merlins, likely documenting their condition in extreme detail to inform engineering reviews of the pathfinder rocket after its first flight test.
The pictures show those bolts quite clearly.