Spacecraft manufacturing company SpaceX, is one step closer to achieving its goal of being able to re-use rockets recovered from previous missions. Earlier this month, the private company completed a round of static test firing on a Falcon 9 first-stage rocket at the company’s rocket development facility located in McGregor, Texas.
This development is considered a crucial step towards fully re-using the rocket component in other missions. This booster was the first part recovered from Space X’s resupply mission at CRS-8 International Space Station in April 2016. The Falcon 9 first-stage was recovered from a drone ship landing pad floating on the ocean.
A crucial development towards fully re-using the rocket component for other missions
Space X is an ambitious and forward-thinking firm owned by billionaire Elon Musk. The company started in 2002 and aims to revolutionize space technology. While it is currently under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA for cargo resupply missions, its ultimate goal is to ferry people across the galaxy and allow humans to live on other planets. Space X launched and funded the reusable launch system development program in order to develop reusable rockets. This will eventually give rise to reliable and durable space vehicles for much less of their current cost.
Space Flight Insider explains that in the long term, the company envisions being able to re-use first and second stage components within a few hours of returning to Earth.
The Falcon 9 booster was actually Space X’s first successful landing “at-sea” and just the second component to be recovered since the project first started. It went through what was called a propulsive landing at the deck of a drone ship. “Of Course I Still Love You” was floating at 190 miles east of Cape Canaveral, Florida when booster landed in April 2016.
Tech Crunch reports that a highly optimistic Musk predicted that a re-used booster could be used as early as March 2017. However, from the looks of things that won’t be happening anytime soon. Space X suffered huge setbacks in its program in September, with an explosion upsetting its schedule for at least six months.
Once successfully implemented though, rocket components can be used multiple times. Re-using the first stage rockets alone will save NASA and other private companies in the space race at least 30 percent on costs per launch. Sometimes bold ideas take time.