And SpaceX has done it again! The Elon Musk led venture has managed to fire and land yet another Falcon 9 rocket safely onto solid ground at Cape Canaveral, after it had first fulfilled its flight objectives. The rocket is safe and sound and the last we heard, is proud of having saved SpaceX millions of dollars.
SpaceX’s 7th flight of the year took place last night, when the Falcon 9 took off carrying a Dragon capsule for the International Space Station. The capsule, which at present is well on its way to the station, is loaded with the usual stuff you would expect to send to a structure orbiting the earth from a distance of several thousand miles.
Food, Oxygen, Water, several high-tech machines for experimental purposes and over 2.5 tonnes of gear make up the Dragon’s payload. There is also an International Docking Adaptor on board, that will let future spacecrafts dock onto the ISS — Although, i don’t envy the man who is going to have to play mechanic and fix it to the ISS.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) July 18, 2016
The company has managed to successfully land its rockets 4 times before as well and it appears to be getting really better it. The accidents, which included broken landing gear, have certainly dropped down and SpaceX appears to have finally gotten the hang of it. Considering that each well-landed rocket saves it around $60 million, each landing is a cause for celebration — both from the economic and engineering perspective — for the company.
Interestingly, after perfecting its sea based drone platform landings, it was the first time this year, that SpaceX attempted a ground landing. The company has had more luck with sea landings in the past but it managed to pull it off beautifully this time. And just in case you have been wondering about why does SpaceX even bother with ocean landings instead of simply landing them on the ground where there id a lot more space — ocean based landings are actually easier. As to the why, allow us to enlighten you.
Rockets have enough fuel to go up, since thats usually the only direction they are expected to go in. However, SpaceX rockets have some extra fuel on board to reignite their boosters as they enter the earth’s atmosphere, so that their landing can be controlled. Considering that most of the fuel is burnt on the up trip, rockets aren’t really left with a lot of room to shift their landing positions.
Which is exactly where the drone ships come in. While ground does have more space as compared to the sea, the drone ships can alter their positions in real time to make it easier for the rocket to find its landing spot — rather like catching the rocket as it falls. This makes sea based landings easier, and the only option when there is an actual dearth of fuel on-board.
Meanwhile, the company still has 11 launches to go if it hopes to make its goal of 18 launches in 2016. A difficult feat certainly, but you can never tell with SpaceX. The company is also planning to start reusing the rockets very soon. In fact, it is quite possible that we will see a Falcon 9 make its second trip to the space — for the first time ever — as early as this fall.