Nine Merlin 1D engines pushing more than a million pounds of thrust set the stage for SpaceX’s first re-flying of a used first stage. Restraints kept the thundering engines from lifting the rocket off the ground.
Yep, those look a bit stronger than the restraints I use to keep my kayak from flying off my truck.
There and back again
On May 6th, the rocket seen above shot into the skies above Cape Canaveral, Florida to deliver the JCSAT 14 communications satellite into an elliptical geostationary transfer orbit more than 22,000 miles above Earth.
A couple of minutes after liftoff, the first stage detached and began SpaceX’s secondary mission – landing the rocket on a barge off the Atlantic coast.
In pitch black darkness, the first stage rocket deployed its grid fins and fired its Merlin engines.
After the landing, SpaceX engineers inspected the rocket and shipped it off to SpaceX’s Texas facility. Fast forward a couple of months and the rocket’s engines came to life once more. But this rocket won’t fly again.
Most recent rocket took max damage, due to v high entry velocity. Will be our life leader for ground tests to confirm others are good.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 15, 2016
Yesterday’s test bodes well for the April 8th rocket, though. That one is slated to head back into the sky again. And since yesterday’s rocket refiring went off without a hitch (despite a more turbulent re-entry than the April 8th rocket) it stands to reason that the rocket from April will be good to go.
A used SpaceX rocket sitting in a hanger.
Did You Know: This isn’t the first re-firing of a Falcon 9 rocket. Almost a month after SpaceX landed their first rocket, they conducted a static fire test and reported a good outcome.
When will a re-used Falcon 9 head up again? No word from SpaceX, but SpaceNews’ Jeff Foust tweeted this.
Gary Payton, speaking at AIAA conference, says he understands that, as of a few days ago, SpaceX has found a customer for reused Falcon 9.
— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) July 25, 2016
Five Falcon 9 first-stage rockets sit in SpaceX’s rocket garage. The one that just fired will be their guinea pig. SpaceX is keeping the first one as a piece of history. As for the other three? SpaceX plans to send one back in the air. And I’m sure they’ll find something to do with the other two.