SpaceX Delivers Space Hotel and Lands on Barge

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SpaceX launched the Falcon 9 to the International Space Station (ISS) carrying supplies and a trial space hotel built by Robert Bigelow. On April 8, 2016, the Falcon 9 rocket took off from Cape Canaveral, Fla. on a groundbreaking journey. The Falcon 9 successfully landed on a barge at sea. Mission control watched from Hawthorne, Calif. and cheered. The Washington Post reported a few celebrities and President Obama tweeted their praise.

SpaceX was founded by Elon Musk. Time referred to Musk as a serial entrepreneur. He made his fortune by co-founding PayPal and afterward he created Tesla Motors and SolarCity. He founded the Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, known as SpaceX, in 2002.

Along with Boeing, the company works as a subcontractor for NASA. The group became the first private company to send a vessel out of Earth’s atmosphere in 2008. Since that time, it has been sending cargo ships to resupply the ISS. Musk is predicting the company will be ready to sign a contract with NASA to fly a manned crew by 2017.

On April 8, the company did something which has never been done before. As usual, the Falcon 9 rocket was equipped with the Dragon capsule; inside it were necessities for the crew on the ISS – plus a bonus package. What made this particular rocket launch special was its landing. After sending its payload out of Earth’s atmosphere, the Falcon 9 returned back to earth. Equipped with additional engines, the rocket successfully landed on an awaiting barge.

The Washington Post reported Buzz Aldrin cheered the company. Celebrities Mia Farrow and Jon Favreau gave their congratulations on twitter. Rachel Maddow said, “So here’s an incredible thing that happened [Friday]. You just kind of have to see it. It’s amazing.”

The company has successfully returned the Falcon 9 to its launch site in Cape Canaveral before but said ocean landings are more likely in the future. After four failed attempts, SpaceX had finally landed its rocket on a floating barge in the Atlantic Ocean.

Vox cited the cost of building a new Falcon 9 was $54 million. During a launch, the rocket consumes about $200,000 in fuel. Having the ability to recycle equipment can cut costs of space travel exponentially.

The Dragon capsule attached to the Falcon 9 carried supplies and biological experiments. This included 20 mice sent for muscle tissue studies. In addition, some cabbage and lettuce plants were sent for cultivation research and astronaut consumption.

This time, the capsule carried the embryonic stage of commercial space travel. At one point, NASA had started working on a project for an expandable space habitat. Named TransHab, the project was abandoned by NASA in the 90s shortly after the blueprint stage.

Years went by until Bigelow, a hotel entrepreneur, purchased rights to TransHab. He updated its name, calling it the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM). He had to persuade NASA to allow his project on the ISS. After he gained their permission, the prototype was loaded into the Dragon capsule and sent to the space station.

According to Fox News, Bigelow wants to have two inflatable BEAMs ready for launch around 2020 and they will be available for commercial use. In addition, he would like to have a base on the moon. Fox News also reported NASA wants to see habitats ready for the Mars expeditions in the 2030s.

In 1969, the world listened as Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon, saying, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” On April 8, mankind took a few more steps forward; first, SpaceX returned its rocket safely to a floating barge at sea. Secondly, Bigelow sent the prototype for the first commercial structure in space.

By Harrison Baker
Edited by Cathy Milne & Jeanette Smith


FOX New: SpaceX launches futuristic pop-up room, lands rocket at sea
Newsweek: SpaceX Takes Space Hotel Module Into Orbit
Vox: SpaceX finally landed a rocket at sea – a huge step toward making spaceflight cheaper
The Washington Post: What SpaceX’s landing means for commercial space trave

Image Courtesy of Wake Up Freeman’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License