EVERYTHING about space flight is superlative.
Even relatively modest rockets are hundreds of feet high. The biggest (the Saturn V, which launched astronauts to the Moon) remains the most powerful vehicle ever built. But space flight is superlatively expensive, too. One reason is that, for all their technological sophistication, rockets are one-shot wonders. After they have fired their engines for a few minutes they are left to fall back to Earth, usually splashing ignominiously into the ocean.
Rocket scientists have therefore long dreamed of making something able to fly more than once. Such a reusable machine, they hope, would slash the cost of getting into space. The only one built so far, America’s space shuttle, proved a dangerous and costly disappointment, killing two of its crews and never coming close to the cost savings its designers had intended. But hope springs eternal, and several of America’s privately run “New Space” firms are planning to try again.
The furthest advanced is SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, an internet mogul. On April 18th it is due to launch one of its Falcon 9 rockets on a cargo-carrying trip to the International Space Station (ISS), something it has done twice before. This time, though, the main story is not the ISS mission, but the modifications the firm has made to the rocket itself.
The most notable are the four landing legs folded up along the side of its first stage. If everything goes to plan, once that stage has finished its job and detached itself from the rest of the rocket, it will fire its engines again. Instead of crashing into the sea, it will make a controlled descent, deploy its legs, slow almost to a stop off the coast of Cape Canaveral, and then drop itself delicately into the drink. Mr Musk gives himself a slightly-less-than-even chance of pulling this off.
Will you walk with me, Grasshopper?
If it does work, though, it will be the most dramatic demonstration yet of technology that the firm has been working on for several years. In 2012 SpaceX began flying an unwieldy-looking legged test rocket called Grasshopper. This was able to hover, manoeuvre around in mid-air, and land itself back on the pad that launched it.
Then, last September, it attempted to organise the controlled descent of a legless first stage. In what the firm’s engineers call a useful failure, the rocket’s engines restarted as planned, but as the stage descended it began spinning, flinging its remaining fuel against the walls of its tanks and starving its motors, causing it to crash.
This week’s test is intended to end up with the rocket in the ocean, chiefly for safety reasons in case something does go wrong. But SpaceX’s ultimate goal is to have the first stage fly all the way back to the pad it was launched from, and to land itself facing upwards. It will then be taken away, serviced, refilled with rocket fuel and readied to fly again. The firm wants, one day, to recover the Falcon’s second stage, too—though the greater altitude and speed the second stage reaches makes this a far tougher proposition.
The Latest on: Reusable rockets
via Google News
The Latest on: Reusable rockets
- Boeing’s Starliner Lags Behind As SpaceX Gears Up For 2nd Crew Dragon Missionon February 24, 2021 at 10:50 am
SpaceX successfully sent four astronauts to the International Space Station in its first operational Crew Dragon mission, under a NASA program aimed to regularly transport astronauts and payloads to ...
- China officially plans to move ahead with super-heavy Long March 9 rocketon February 24, 2021 at 6:56 am
China has officially approved development of a super heavy lift rocket, named the Long March 9, or CZ-9 vehicle. The decision was revealed on Wednesday by Chinese state television. In a snippet from ...
- US Reusable Launch Vehicle Market Analysis, Segmentation, Size, Share, Trend, Future Demand and Leading Players Updates by Forecast to 2027on February 24, 2021 at 3:35 am
TheUS reusable launch vehicle market sizeis projected to reachUSD 1,634.9millionby the end of 2027. The increasing ...
- SpaceX Falcon boosters likely to surpass Elon Musk’s prime rocket reuse directiveon February 24, 2021 at 1:56 am
A SpaceX vice president and one of Elon Musk’s first hires says that Falcon boosters will soon meet – and should ultimately beat – the CEO’s longstanding target for rocket reusability. Years before ...
- SpaceX is about to reattempt a high-altitude flight of its Starship rocket. The last 2 prototypes blew up.on February 23, 2021 at 11:19 am
Elon Musk gives the newest prototype, SN10, a 60% chance of a successful landing. Its predecessors slammed into the ground.
- Abort the launch: Biden administration should scrap costly, outdated Space Launch Systemon February 23, 2021 at 9:00 am
Why is the U.S. government building a space rocket? In particular, why is it building a space rocket that has cost nearly $20 billion and counting, is years behind schedule, ...
- Elon Musk’s Mars mission ‘to colonise Red Planet’ could start THIS week ahead of SpaceX Starship launchon February 23, 2021 at 4:44 am
ELON Musk has revealed that a SpaceX rocket designed to take humans to Mars could take to the skies in the coming days. In a tweet on Sunday, the billionaire said the latest Starship prototype has ...
- The Strange, Orbital Afterlife of an Apollo-Era Rocket Boosteron February 22, 2021 at 10:25 am
Looking back at the early decades of space exploration often involves seeing images and film of massive rocket boosters conveying vehicles into orbit and beyond. The afterlives of these rockets ...
- Mars beckons, but the private sector alone can’t meet our space needson February 19, 2021 at 6:31 am
These are high times for companies taking the lead in launching rockets, deploying satellites and making money. But the profit motive alone can't match our needs beyond low-earth orbit, writes ...
- Scrap the Space Launch Systemon February 18, 2021 at 7:30 am
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has created rockets that are not only dependable but reusable, drastically reducing the cost of spaceflight. It has also disrupted an unconscionable contractor monopoly on ...
via Bing News