Three rocket landings in and SpaceX is making it look easy. But landing the first stage is far from it. Earlier this month, Elon Musk’s private space company nailed another rocket landing while most of us were sleeping.
It was another huge achievement for the company, but the rocket won’t see space again. Yesterday, Elon Musk explained why.
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
All three of the first stage rockets sit nestled in hanger 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The first successful rocket landing happened on December 22, 2015 at Landing Zone 1. It would take four months (April 8, 2016) before SpaceX could finally land the rocket at sea on a barge. One month later (May 10, 2016), they did it again.
We’re looking at the future of SpaceX. Reusable rockets are one of SpaceX’s end goals. The cost savings in using the first stage rocket over and over again could be huge. Up to 30% according to SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell.
Right now, we are looking at recoverable rockets, not necessarily reusable. That third rocket though will pave the way.
SpaceX will run the third rocket through rigorous testing to see how its engines perform following its landing. If it holds up, it’s likely the other two are in even better shape. Additional testing will also tell engineers just how reliable the rocket is for reusing.
If all the testing goes well, we could see SpaceX reuse a rocket for the first time sometime this year. But not the first rocket. That one will soon stand as a monument to the company’s achievement outside its headquarters.
The next Falcon 9 launch is scheduled for May 26. Three more are set for June. A June 27th launch will deliver supplies to the International Space Station for the ninth time.
I’m not sure how many of these they are planning to attempt landings on, but if they succeed too many more times – they’re going to need a bigger hanger. There’s only room for five in the current rocket storage hanger. It’s a headache for Elon Musk and SpaceX, but a good one. I’ll keep you posted on the upcoming launches.