Monday, December 21, 2015

Space X Finally Lands its Falcon 9 First Stage Back on Earth

A private company, Space X, has, finally, managed to safely land the first stage of its Falcon 9 spacecraft back on Earth in Florida while successfully deploying several satellites into Earth orbit.  The Falcon 9 upper stage booster, however, will not be recovered which, of course, makes this spacecraft only partially reusable-- just as NASA's Space Shuttle was.

NASA, of course, operated its partially reusable crewed spacecraft (the Space Shuttle) for more than 30 years, recovering the reusable space plane (Space Shuttle Orbiter) and twin solid rocket boosters (SRBs) after every flight. But the dramatically lower cost that was predicted for the Space Shuttle program never came to fruition thanks to a couple of fatal accidents and a high launch demand that never became a reality-- for both commercial and political reasons.

It should also be noted that NASA's cancelled Ares I program was also supposed to have a recoverable and reusable first stage based on the legacy of the Space Shuttle's solid rocket boosters.

The next step for Space X will be to refurbish the recovered Falcon 9 booster and its engines in order see if the first stage booster can successfully fly again and be successfully recovered again. How costly and reliable-- and safe-- a refurbished Falcon 9 booster will be is the next question for Space X. But recovering the Falcon 9 first stage while also successfully launching its payloads into orbit is a major milestone for a private space launch company.

Space X duly deserves to be  congratulated for accomplishing this first important phase in its goal towards a reusable space launch vehicle!

Marcel F. Williams

Links and References

SpaceX landing a 'feat' but not yet a game-changer, expert says

SpaceX's Triumphant Rocket Landing Could Revolutionize Spaceflight

Falcon 9 and Blue Origin Booster Landings:Compared and Contrasted

SpaceX landing highlights promise, challenges of rocket reusability

SpaceX’s Accomplishment

SpaceX rocket landing applauded, but experts say implications TBD

Spaceflight is on the Verge of a Revolution, but don’t Count your Rockets Before they Land

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