SpaceX‘s Falcon 9 has safely landed on an ocean platform in the Atlantic, marking the second successful mission in the same number of months for Elon Musk’s aerospace upstart. The previous one, the launch of a Japanese communications satellite, was the third in SpaceX’s ambitious schedule for the year, which includes more than a dozen flights.
Due to the high altitude, as well as the extreme speed involved and the heat recorded in the re-entry phase, the odds of a successful landing were assessed by SpaceX’s CEO as “maybe even”. The mission did manage to beat the odds though, with Falcon 9 safely landing its first stage on an autonomous drone ship in the Atlantic ocean.
To put things into perspective, the current mission’s target was located 90 times further from the Earth than the International Space Station (ISS) and the traveling speed exceeded a mile per second. Moreover, Falcon 9 burnt four times as much energy and was subjected to an eightfold increase in temperatures in the re-entry phase.
Following last month’s successful launch, Musk said he was planning to reuse the booster as early as this summer. SpaceX is currently the only company that recovers rockets after successful launches. According to Musk, reusing the boosters contributes significantly to cutting the costs of its missions and overall makes space missions more accessible. The first booster it recovered will be put to other uses though, namely it will greet those entering the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
Elon Musk’s company is involved in the delivery business, with the most high-profile client being NASA. According to estimates, its total launch orders currently exceeds $10 billion. By the end of next year, SpaceX hopes to start transporting US astronauts to the International Space Station using its next generation Dragon rockets developed between 2004 and 2010.
Elon Musk’s ambitions don’t end here though. The founder and CEO of electric company Tesla plans to send a Red Dragon, an unmanned spacecraft equipped with eight SuperDraco engines, to Mars by 2018. His ultimate goal though, is to found a city on the Red Planet.
Overall, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 has been involved in 24 missions so far.
Image source: Wikipedia