By Madison Kemp
On Monday, Dec. 21 2015, SpaceX shot a rocket into space then landed it completely intact back down on Earth, therefore succeeding at what could be the largest reduction of cost in spaceflight. Though landing a spacecraft back at its base may not sound too impressive, it has the potential to impact the future of space travel immensely.
On Monday, Oct. 2 2017, SpaceX test fired a Falcon 9 rocket in preparation for the booster lifting off the following weekend. Known as a “static test fire”, the rocket had successfully completed a check of its “countdown procedure”. Teams then attached a commercial communications satellite named EchoStar 105 / SES-11, atop the second stage of the Falcon 9 before the two-hour launch window opened on Saturday 6:53 p.m. Saturday’s launch was the second mission to the previously flown first stage rocket. According to Florida Today, “On Feb. 19, the booster had helped send a robotic Dragon cargo capsule to the International Space Station on a resupply run for NASA”. The capsule then came back to Earth for a touchdown at SpaceX’s “Landing Zone 1,”(at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station). The communications satellite covers a vast portion of North America, with all 50 U.S. states, parts of Mexico and the Caribbean included.
The launch is a key feature in the company’s founder Elon Musk’s goal to lower future rocket launch costs, “Such technology will cut the cost of spaceflight dramatically, potentially opening the heavens to exploration” said Musk speaking at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference. This launch marked the first flight of a “used” booster, while cutting the cost of launches reusing the rockets will result in less materials wasted. With less materials exhausted time after time, the amount of space litter will ultimately decrease.