SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Makes it to Space and Back for the First Time
By Staff Writer
December 21, 2015, was a historic day for SpaceX, the company started by Elon Musk. Their Falcon 9 rocket was able to successfully land for the first time after their last attempt failed six months ago.
The Falcon 9 rocket went to space, successfully deployed a payload of 11 satellites into low Earth orbit, and then was able to land vertically on the designated landing pad. The New York Times reported that Musk, who was at the launch site in Florida that evening, described the scene, "It really felt like it was right on top of us."
The landing was an impressive feat for the company. After the Falcon 9 was able to reach orbit and deploy the satellites, the engines from the booster stage reignited to push it back into Earth's gravity and direct it to Cape Canaveral. Only ten minutes after its departure from the surface of the earth, it was able to land, intact, six miles south from its origin as the team planned.
This year, the company had tried twice to land and retrieve rockets. Each time, the rockets were able to complete their space missions and come back to Earth, but they were unable to control their descent well enough to touch down on the floating landing platforms in the Atlantic.
These failures prompted the SpaceX team to update the designs for the Falcon 9 rocket, chilling the liquid oxygen 40 degrees colder than before and the kerosene fuel 50 degrees cooler. Musk explained in a tweet that the decrease in temperatures would help the performance of the engines.
The major goal of SpaceX is to retrieve the rocket boosters used for their rockets after it launches.
As CNET noted, "the rocket boosters for most space launches have fallen into the ocean, never to be used again."
The success of this launch brings the promise of reusable rockets closer to reality and, therefore, the possibility of cost-effective space travel.
The Verge reported that the cost of creating a rocket would cost $16 million and $200,000 to fuel so if SpaceX were able to consistently re-use their rockets it would remove the necessary $16 million fee each time a space mission was required.
Despite the promises of an improved space industry, Musk has said that it would take the company some years to figure out the process, especially since this is only the first successful landing the company has had.
For those dreaming of the opportunity to fly to the moon on a private space shuttle, they will have to wait a little longer.