Elon Musk’s SpaceX is closing on the dream of developing reusable rockets and likely in an year or two space launch rockets will be reusable just like flights, ships and cars. Today SpaceX launched an upgraded Falcon 9 rocket in to space to deliver satellites as well as to test their reusable rocket launching technology. All on board satellites were released on to the orbit and the first stage of rocket partially succeeded in returning back to Earth. This is a huge leap in space technology.
Couple of years ago reusable rockets were considered as impossible. NASA, Russian Space Agency, China, India or for that matter any other space agency never even attempted to build reusable rockets. But SpaceX’s revolutionary technology partially succeeded in doing the impossible!
Elon Musk founded SpaceX with the goal of building reusable rockets and transporting humans to & from other planets like Mars. He says
If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred. A fully reusable vehicle has never been done before. That really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionize access to space.
Normally the first stage of a rocket falls back to Earth after burning out and is destroyed. But today SpaceX reignited first stage rocket after its separation and attempted to descend smoothly on to ocean’s surface. Though it did not fully succeed, the test was partially successful and SpaceX was able to recovers portions of first stage.
Rocket booster relit twice (supersonic retro & landing), but spun up due to aero torque, so fuel centrifuged & we flamed out
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 29, 2013
With the partial success of recovering first stage, SpaceX gathered huge amount of information and experience it can use to improve Falcon 9 and build a fully reusable rocket. In post launch press conference Musk said if things go "super well", could refly a Falcon 9 1st stage by the end of next year.
Falcon 9 Launch Video
Next reusable first tests delayed by at least two launches
SpaceX has a busy schedule for next several months with more than 50 missions scheduled using the new Falcon 9 rocket. Ten of those missions are to fly cargo to the International Space Shuttle for NASA. SpaceX announced that they will not attempt to recover the first stage of Falcon 9 in next two missions. The next test will be conducted on the fourth mission of Falcon 9 which is planned to carry cargo to Internation Space Station sometime next year. This will give time required for SpaceX to analyze the information gathered from today’s mission and improve first stage reentry systems.
Here are few interesting sources to read more about today’s SpaceX launch
- SpaceX post mission press conference details and discussion on Reddit
- Giant Leaps for Space Firms Orbital, SpaceX
- Hacker News community discussion on SpaceX launch
- SpaceX Launches Next-Generation Private Falcon 9 Rocket on Big Test Flight