Where does SpaceX manufacture its rockets

SpaceX rocket lands precisely on a platform in the sea

The private space company SpaceX has succeeded in safely returning and landing a rocket on a platform in the sea. This first successful point landing in the Atlantic could herald a new era in space travel: the recycling of rockets.

SpaceX succeeds first rocket landing on a platform in the sea.

Photo: SpaceX

After four failed attempts in the sea, all of which ended in explosions, it finally worked on the fifth attempt. After the Falcon 9 rocket was launched on schedule from the Cape Canaveral spaceport in Florida last Friday, the first stage returned after a good eight minutes of flight time. Around 300 km from the launch site, it touched down almost gently on an unmanned and swaying platform in the sea.

Obama congratulated on Twitter

"The first stage has landed and we are of course excited," wrote SpaceX boss Elon Musk on Twitter and US President Barack Obama also congratulated and tweeted. “Because of inventors like you and NASA, America continues to lead the way in space research.” Once before, in December 2015, the SpaceX team succeeded in returning a rocket stage.

Compared to this landing on land, however, the current mission in the Atlantic was many times more complicated. In the end, however, a mobile platform makes more sense, as it can shorten the return flight of the rocket. That in turn means it uses less fuel. The weight saved can be used to load supplies on the outbound flight.

Screenshots from a video by the US space company SpaceX show the landing of the lowest rocket stage of a Falcon9 rocket on the unmanned floating platform "Of Course I Still Love You".

Source: SpaceX / dpa

The swell around the floating platform called “Of course I Still Love You” (named after a ship from a novel by science fiction author Iain M. Banks) is the greatest challenge. determined by the GPS, ”said Musk. “The accuracy was less than one meter. The ship has four drives that can rotate 360 ​​degrees. You run all the time to hold your position. "

Musk: "The costs could be reduced by a factor of 100"

For Elon Musk, the recyclability of missiles, if they could be used like airplanes, is the essential factor in revolutionizing access to space. “The cost could be reduced by a factor of 100.” After the Falcon 9 stage landed, Musk said that a rocket would cost $ 60 million to build while fuel could be had for $ 300,000.

Launch of the Falcon-9 rocket on April 8, 2016 from the Cape Canaveral spaceport in Florida.

Source: SpaceX

Now the rocket will undergo a series of tests to see if it can actually be reused. If everything is OK after ten test ignitions on the ground, it can start again in two to three months, Musk said. The step can be reused 10 to 20 times, and even more often after replacing some parts. It will take years, however, until everything runs smoothly and efficiently.

Inflatable room brought to the space station

While public attention was focused on a landing platform in the Atlantic, the Dragon transport that the Falcon 9 had launched into space was carrying supplies to the International Space Station. A special module was also on board that can be deployed with compressed air and coupled to the ISS. This inflatable room BEAM (Bigelow Expandable Activity Module) will remain docked to the space station for two years and its usability will be regularly tested by the astronauts.

The Beam module can be extended from 1.74 to 3.96 m in length. This saves a lot of space during transport in space. This is why the 30 cm thick outer skin is flexible, but should still withstand the enormous loads in space.

Source: Bigelow Aerospace

In addition to SpaceX, other space companies are currently trying to land rockets again and use them multiple times. The company BlueOrigin of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has already succeeded in returning a recycling rocket three times. In Europe, too, there are plans for reusable technologies in connection with the new Ariane 6, which should reduce the enormous cost pressure.

A contribution by:

  • Gudrun von Schoenebeck

    Gudrun von Schoenebeck has been a journalist in print and online media since 2001. In addition to architecture, art and design, she has above all opened up the exciting field of space travel.