22 December 2015

It Took Long Enough

SpaceX has finally managed to safely land a first stage on their booster:
SpaceX engineers and on-board software maneuvered the first stage of a Falcon 9 launch vehicle back to a steady, tail-down landing at Cape Canaveral Monday, 10 min. after returning the kerosene-fueled rocket to flight following an ascent explosion on a mission to the International Space Station in June.

Success in recovering the stage, after two unsuccessful attempts to land on a barge in the Atlantic, marks a major step toward the long-sought dream of reusable commercial space launchers. While Blue Origin brought its liquid-hydrogen/liquid oxygen New Shepard vehicle back from a suborbital launch to space on Nov. 23, Monday’s SpaceX recovery was the first known landing for an unmanned orbital launcher.

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, an early SpaceX backer, tweeted “Congrats @SpaceX for landing the rocket back on land!!!! Incredible!!! One giant leap!”

The landing at a surplus launch pad on Cape Canaveral AFS, Florida, came in the middle of three significant milestones for commercial spaceflight. For SpaceX, it marked a return to flight for the Falcon 9 launch vehicle that is the linchpin of the company’s business in the near term. For its customer, Orbcomm, it completed launching of a 17-spacecraft low Earth orbit (LEO) constellation of second-generation Machine-to-Machine “OG2” satellites.

Although only a secondary test objective on the Orbcomm-2 mission, landing the Falcon 9 stage at Launch Complex 13 on Cape Canaveral — a surplus Atlas launch site designed “Landing Complex 1” by SpaceX — was a major achievement for the Hawthorne, California-based company.
I am dubious as to the ultimate significance of the reusable stage.

At least some of the potential savings is eaten up by the additional fuel that needs to be carried to fly home, as are any arrangements for a landing site, with its associated blockhouse and firefighting equipment.

We'll see.


Anonymous said...

I thought the whole idea was to have quicker turn around
for potential freight or even commercial flight?

It would depend on how many times the fuselage can be reused..Got to be better than building a new booster each time.

Matthew Saroff said...

Remember something: The reusable engines on the Space Shuttle were the most expensive propulsion system ever to go into space.

There is a cost to making something robust enough for reuse.

Anonymous said...

Propulsion is the most expensive item for all airborne craft. Over 30% on a 787..Sure..fuel, maintenance. All add in. They'll make it work..New materials..lighten the loads. Innovation.
Pretty amazing video..

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