SpaceX makes history by re-using rocket

Phillip Butler
April 1, 2017

It was the first time SpaceX founder Elon Musk tried to fly a booster that soared before on an orbital mission. The most expensive part of the mission, according to Musk, is the Falcon 9 first stage - the 14-story core of the rocket that SpaceX tries to land after each launch. "The Falcon 9 rocket used here took about four months to repurpose for reuse". Bezos and Musk have snarked at each other on Twitter over the importance of this accomplishment, and it's no accident that Musk and the other SpaceX employees we spoke with described their newly re-launched rocket as "orbital class".

Since the dawn of the space age, rockets have been expendable.

And why not? The launch itself was not only a historic first, but the culmination of 15 years of work and $1 billion of investment in rocket reusability in an effort to get rockets, today largely disposable, to work more like planes by flying 10 and eventually 100 times apiece. He called it an "incredible milestone in the history of space", adding: "This is going to be a huge revolution in spaceflight".

The landing marked the ninth successful touchdown of a first stage rocket for SpaceX.

In November 2016, SpaceX filed a proposal with the FCC describing the company's plan of a space internet with 4,425 satellites in non-geostationary orbit traveling 1,110 km to 1,325 km above the Earth's surface, with at least one satellite a minimum of 40 degrees above the horizon, covering almost every place on the planet.

Until now, nearly all rockets have been single-use. This means that every rocket can be used only once and will be thrown away after being launched into space. The booster segments were mixed and matched for each flight.

This launch isn't just important for SpaceX, though.

As for this SpaceX reused booster, Halliwell said engineers went through it with a fine-toothed comb following its liftoff in April 2016.

The Falcon 9 booster lifted off to put a communications satellite into orbit for longtime customer Luxembourg-based SES SA. "It's a bit sooty", he said with a smile.

About 10 minutes after launch, screams and applause erupted at SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California as the reused rocket powered its engines and landed upright on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. The capsule has already successfully flown uncrewed resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA.

SpaceX is also working on a passenger spaceship, with two unidentified tourists signed up for a future trip around the Moon. The company's long-term goal under Musk is to establish a colony on Mars and ferry people and cargo back and forth between the planets. SpaceX posted a help wanted ad on its webcast following the launch.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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