Tuesday, December 22, 2015

SpaceX nails it

After a number of failed attempts, SpaceX has now achieved a soft landing of their first stage rocket.

As momentous as this is, it isn't entirely new in all respects.  The Space Shuttle was mostly reusable.  However, it didn't save money on its launches due to the fact that the reusability part didn't turn out to be easy.  The main engines had to be mostly rebuilt after each launch.  The solid rocket boosters had to be taken apart and rebuilt as well.

The designs are different enough though that the results may also be different.  The first stage burns for less time and at a lower temperature.  It uses nine engines instead of three, which gives a margin for error that the Shuttle didn't have.  The solid rocket boosters aren't there.  Instead, there's the rocket casing, which presumably won't need any refurbishing at all.

Actually, landing the thing may be the easy part.  The hard part may be getting the reusability down pat, plus a fast turnaround.   If all this can be accomplished, then it should be revolutionary.


According to this article, the first stage probably won't fly again.   They'll be going over it with a fine tooth comb.  It stands to reason that it may not make it back after they finish with it.

Also, I didn't take into account how much the engines had to fire on the return trip.  It remains to be seen what that may mean to refurb efforts.

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