Energy

Private Space Race: SpaceX Lands Rocket Month After Blue Origin

(REUTERS/Joe Skipper)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully landed a stage of its Falcon 9 rocket Monday evening in Florida, a month after competitor Blue Origin accomplished a similar technical feat.

The launch is a”giant tech demo for SpaceX, as being able to deliver on claims and come back from losses with not only nominally flight, but also improvement. Put in other words, it serves as much as a publicity stunt as it does an engineering feat,” an engineer familiar with the matter told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

However, according to the engineer, the “real test” is if the rocket stage can be successfully re-used for later launches.

“All flights take a toll on rockets. That can have unforeseen consequences on the materials used, especially liquid engines which have more moving parts” continued the engineer. Fully reuseable rockets could greatly reduce the cost of getting to orbit, making the expansion of humanity into space much easier.

Each Falcon 9 launch presently costs around $54 million per launch. If NASA’s Space Shuttle design was around today, it would have an average cost of more than $1.6 billion per launch.

Blue Origin, SpaceX and other companies have been competing to develop the first fully reusable rocket. SpaceX, previously failed on two separate occasions to successfully land a reusable rocket. Elon Musk called the failure a “huge blow.” This allowed Blue Origin to win this leg of the private sector’s space race after officially going to space and landing in November.  This is technically simpler than sending a rocket all the way into orbit, then returning to Earth, but still remains a major technical achievement.

NASA’s Space Shuttle was only technically reusable because its giant fuel tank was discarded after each launch, and its side boosters were parachuted into corrosive salt water every flight —  which required them to be extensively refurbished after use — making the Space Shuttle exceedingly expensive.

Video of the Space X landing can be seen here.

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