There is an ongoing space race among privately owned companies headed by individuals with great vision for the advancement of space exploration. While some of these privately owned companies are focused on space tourism, others have channeled their resources towards cutting the cost of sending rockets into space. Space X, founded by Elon Musk (also the founder of Tesla Motors) is one of such companies, and perhaps the most well-known.
Elon Musk is one of the big faces of modern technology innovations with huge success recorded with Tesla and Space X. The serial technology entrepreneur is a huge advocate for renewable energy and a greener environment. His goal is driven by the need to build a world that is cleaner and safer for all.
Space X Reusable Rockets
The space race went up to another level when Musk announced that Space X will be exploring the possibilities of reducing the cost of space transport by reusing rockets multiple times.
Before Musk’s announcement, the reusability of rockets was not largely explored by the government and privately-owned space organizations. The standard practice was to discard the boosters that lifted the rockets used to transport equipment and supplies into space. When these boosters completed their function, they fell back to earth, crashing into the sea and never to be retrieved or seen again.
Elon Musk suggested that if boosters can be designed to be reusable, space transportation could save millions of dollars. However, many space scientists and enthusiasts did not see the possibility of reusing boosters multiple times because it had just never been done or attempted before. They were wrong, and Musk was determined to see his vision become a reality.
Landing The Boosters
Musk and Space X were determined to successfully land a booster on an autonomous ship despite many failed attempts. These failed landings did put a dent into the financing of Space X, leaving many in doubt of whether the company could actually land a rocket booster on a floating drone ship.
The idea, as far-reaching as it may be, does seem a little outlandish; does it not? However, on second thought, the benefits of successfully landing a rocket booster offers the potential to be a game changer, and a huge development in space exploration and transportation if it is proven to work.
Successfully landing a rocket also keeps the dream of having a human base on Mars alive, for the time being.
For Space X, every attempt and failure has come with the opportunity to learn and improve the landing system of the boosters. Within a period of just four years, Space X had succeeded in building rockets that could transport an inflatable space cabin to the International Space Station, and land themselves on a drone ship in the middle of the sea.
One major feat by Space X was to teach the boosters how to land themselves without any external help. This was made possible by an internal computer that was developed by a team of space engineers led by Lars Blackmore from MIT. As of today, Space X is the only organization to have succeeded in flying a reusable rocket back to Earth at a great velocity.
Space X has become a major player in the space transport industry, transporting satellites to the ISS and increasing the number of rocket launches. The reusable boosters for rockets will allow them to execute more launches within a shorter time span. So far, Space X has launched 16 reusable rockets to date. These rockets will be used for future space transportation, saving millions of dollars.
Space X is currently enjoying a successful landing streak with over 9 successful landings using the Falcon 9 rocket. Two trips to space and back have been made, sealing the deal on the potential success that in fact, boosters can be reused. The main goal of the Space X reusable rocket is to land them safely and prepare them for another launch, and that has finally been achieved.
“It’s been 15 years to get to this point, it’s taken us a long time,” Musk stated. “A lot of difficult steps along the way, but I’m just incredibly proud of Space X for being able to achieve this incredible milestone in the history of space.”
The Blooper Reel
Musk recently shared a video reel of all the failed Space X rocket landings from 2013 to 2016. For many space enthusiasts that have been following the progress of Space X since Musk announced his plans to reuse rockets, the video did not come as a big surprise. Space X has always released footage of each failed landing from the very first attempt in 2013.
However, we have to applaud this company’s ceaseless creativity and dedication to science, without losing their sense of humor. The video looks a lot like an action packed movie with epic explosions and destruction. What makes it even better than a movie though, is that it’s all real! The reel is a compilation of every Space X failed booster landing with some detail explaining each failed landing. The video, which was described by Musk as a “blooper reel” demonstrates how difficult it is to launch a rocket into space and then land it safely on earth.
On September 14, 2017, Musk posted the video titled, “How Not to Land a Rocket” on Twitter, and he also tweeted, “Long road to reusability of Falcon 9 primary boost stage. When upper stage & fairing also reusable, costs will drop by a factor >100.”
His tweets describe the journey so far and the future of the Space X reusable rocket program. He had teased the arrival of the blooper reel a week before he posted it on Twitter. He tweeted, “Putting together Space X rocket landing blooper reel. We messed up a lot before it finally worked, but there’s some epic explosion footage.”
The two-minute long video is set to John Philip Sousa’s “The Liberty Bell,” and it showcases Space X rockets exploding while attempting to land on a drone ship, as well as on land. The video has dates and short explanations detailing why each of those landing attempts failed. Each landing presented a different explanation ranging from the booster running out of liquid oxygen before touchdown, to running out of hydraulic fluid. The failed landing in January 2016 was caused by the collapse of a landing leg.
With a lot of progress made, Musk stated that Space X is working on a completely reusable Falcon 9 rocket, which includes both the upper stage and the payload fairing. Musk revealed that the fairing alone costs about $5 million to create.