Space-X Recycled Rocket Goes to NASA Space Station and Back Again, Just the Beginning?
The Falcon Rocket 9 booster has propelled one of Space X’s recycled rockets into space with a Dragon capsule, and will return to earth without a hitch.
In a press release, SpaceX Dragon mission manager, Jessica Jensen stated, “This is the beginning of rapid and reliable reusability.”
Though Space X experienced a catastrophe with their earliest attempt at sending a recyclable rocket into space, this marks 14 recovered rocket boosters this year alone.
The Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex (SLC) 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 10:36 a.m. Eastern. It placed the Dragon spacecraft, flying on a mission designated SpX-13, into orbit 10 minutes after liftoff. This was its first use of a previously-flown first stage rocket for NASA.
The Dragon is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station early Dec. 17.
This particular launch is the fourth SpaceX mission to use a previously-flown first stage. The previous three flights were all for commercial customers.
Kirk Shireman, ISS program manager at NASA, said the agency concluded after months of reviews with SpaceX that the risk of using a previously-flown booster was similar to using a new one.
“We’re very comfortable that the risk posture on this vehicle is not significantly greater than a new booster,” he said at the pre-launch briefing. “The net result is about equivalent risk.”
At a post-launch press conference at the Kennedy Space Center, Ven Feng, manager of NASA’s transportation integration office for the ISS program, said that use of recycled first stage rockets on future Dragon missions would be executed on a case-by-case basis. “We’re considering that for the future as well, but no decisions have been made yet,” he said.
The Dragon is also a reused spacecraft that first flew on a 2015 mission, is carrying 2,205 kilograms of cargo to the station, including supplies for the station’s crew and experiments. SpaceX spent around $50 million to improve the existing launch pad.
“We really looked at this as an opportunity to not only rebuild the pad, but to make it better,” said John Muratore, director of SLC-40 at SpaceX.
The launch was the 17th for SpaceX in 2017 makes yet another successful run for SpaceX recycled rockets. A Dec. 22 Iridium launch is the company’s last scheduled mission for the year.
NASA’s projected cost for a single manned space shuttle mission now stands at around $450 million – for a single trip.
The reduced cost of recycled rockets, alone, will make for easier travel into space, and make it more accessible for a larger portion of Earth’s inhabitants. Launch costs have already been reduced by 30 percent, and further improvement to the technology and launching pads could account for even more savings. Billionaire space enthusiasts have flown to space stations already for around $20 million per person.
Some argue NASA could have prioritized research and development into space travel, instead of trying to maintain secrecy. New materials, new fuels and innovative concepts, which would make space exploration less expensive should have been opened to the private sector, as it has been of late.
Others attest we’ve already been into space, to visit the moon, Mars, and even further reaches of the Great Beyond, many decades before Space X and his NASA comrades have been able to build and launch recycled rockets with heavy payloads.
Microgravity, anti-gravity, and other technologies could also make recycled rockets, and the fuel they burn seem like a stage coach meandering across Earth’s outer atmosphere if more advanced technologies are finally revealed.
Dr. Franklin Felber proposed an antigravity propulsion system at the Space Technology and Applications International Forum last year. Some say his proposal could be even better than Apergy described by sci-fi writer Perci Greg.
Image: Intergalactic Vault