The rise and rise of SpaceX
First they said SpaceX couldn't land a rocketship. So SpaceX did it.
Then they said SpaceX couldn't land a rocketship on a boat. So SpaceX did that too.
Finally, cynics accused SpaceX of making that last landing too easy on itself. "Its rocket didn't go far enough," they accused. "It didn't reenter hot enough, or fast enough. Let's see SpaceX try landing a rocket after launching to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), and not just low Earth orbit (LEO) -- it won't survive the attempt!" Well, surprise, surprise -- SpaceX did that too.
After launching a Japanese communications satellite into GTO roughly 22,300 miles above Earth, SpaceX landed its Falcon 9 launch vehicle aboard a drone barge in the mid-Atlantic . This is something that no one else has ever done. Have a look :
Half-a-mile above its landing target early on May 6, a SpaceX rocket booster slammed on the brakes, firing three engines to cut its speed by more than 300 mph in three seconds.The Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage then touched down gently in darkness on the deck of a ship in the Atlantic Ocean, completing a high-speed, 75-mile drop.
The sea landing showed SpaceX can recover boosters intact from some of its most challenging launches, but the rocket’s searing return from space took a toll.
CEO Elon Musk indicated the rocket stage may not be in shape to launch again, but will help the company assess the flight-worthiness of boosters recovered in the future.
Next up for SpaceX is the 25th Falcon 9 launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida scheduled for May 26th at 5:40 pm. The payload for this launch will be the Thaicom 8 satellite, a commercial communications satellite built by Orbital ATK, and its mission is to provide Ku-band communications coverage for Thailand, India, and Africa.
SpaceX previously launched another satellite in this series on January 6, 2014 called Thaicom 6. Want a little trivia on the Thaicom 6 mission? It was the final qualification launch that enabled SpaceX to be able to compete for U.S. Air Force launch contracts.
SpaceX is now working to develop fully and rapidly reusable rockets, technology that Musk has said could reduce the cost of spaceflight by a factor of 100. The three boosters in the hangar at 39A — which are the big first stages of the two-stage Falcon 9 — are part of that development effort.
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