SpaceX’ latest attempt to make a reusable rocket landing on Tuesday was nearly successful. The landing was better than what the company experienced in January. Rockets are normally disposable, but they are very expensive. SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is about $54 million, while the fuel costs $200,000. Making it reusable would save a lot of resources.
While rockets are usually thrown into the ocean after its use, Elon Musk’s firm wants to preserve it for another usage by landing it on a floating platform. This attempt is the company’s third. All were failures for now. The first try missed the target, the second led to a fiery crash landing and this time, it landed too hard.
SpaceX reusable rocket landing was nearly successful and the company is closer to achieving its goal to recycle rockets, but for this time, the Falcon 9 rocket was not able to make it. It made its controlled fall toward a drone ship off a Florida coast and seemed to make a perfect landing before tipping over. Musk said it was because of excess lateral velocity.
This recycling test of SpaceX, when successful, will help slash a significant cost of private space travel and will change the access to space, and instantly make SpaceX leader in launching services for satellites. The NASA contractor has been designing rockets that could be reused, to reduce the launching cost big time. Its rival ULA is jumping on the bandwagon as well, with its new Vulcan rocket created for reuse.
According to Rhett Allain’s analysis of the rocket landing on Wired, even in a layman’s point of view, landing a rocket is a difficult thing to do. Managing a tall rocket with the main thrusters is like balancing a vertical broom on the hand, move it across the room and let it sit down on the floor, upright. Changing the rocket design just like that of SpaceX’ Falcon 9 is out of the topic, as the rocket is mainly designed to launch a payload into orbit, and not to land on a floating platform.
While the recycling goal is still elusive, the rocket’s mission to deliver goods to International Space Station succeeded despite some weather concerns. The launch of SpaceX Dragon was already a good news for astronauts as the goodies reached them at the International Space Station. On board the Dragon are 4,300 pounds of supplies – food, science experiments, as well as the much awaited Lavazza espresso machine specially developed for ISS.
The Dragon capsule separated from the rocket with a Merlin Vacuum engine, and delivered a seven-minute burn to give the cargo ship power into its initial orbit. Powered by its solar arrays, the Dragon then headed towards the space station in about two and half days. It was grappled by the robotic arm of the station on Friday.
The delivered items will support the biotechnology, biology, physical and Earth sciences, as well as several investigations for the one year space mission of NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly. For now, SpaceX reusable rocket landing failed, but its last attempt was nearly successful. Its next chance for its recycling goal is on the seventh resupply mission scheduled in June.
By Judith Aparri
Photo courtesy of NASA – Flickr License