SpaceX's Falcon 9 Rocket Landing Success Brings It Closer To Goals
The battle between SpaceX and Boeing over who will win NASA's full support is raging. The latest fight: Which can land the most reusable rockets back on Earth after launch.
So far, the winning side is SpaceX. It has successfully launched and landed five first-stage Falcon 9 reusable rockets. Boeing, on the other hand, has launched and landed none. SpaceX expects the rate of rocket recovery to triple.
"Getting to the point where they are not only recovering them intact, but reusing them and, here is the key point, reusing them on launches where there is a customer paying for that launch, that is the hard part," said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
SpaceX Vice-President Hans Koenigsmann offered some insight on what the company learned from the successful landings.
"There are no structural changes first of all. The key thing is to protect the engines [while they are in flight and during reentry]," Koenigsmann said. "In general I think the landing concept with the legs, and the number of burns and the way we perform those seems to work OK."
The current issue that Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, is facing is gaining the trust of companies to pay for the launch of a used rocket. The most recent successful launches and landings are building that trust, however.
According to The Christian Science Monitor, the Falcon 9 rocket used is not expected to return to space, despite its success.
SpaceX is not the only company looking to reuse their rockets. Blue Origin CEO Jeff Bezos is also working on a reusable orbital vehicle. Virgin Galactic looks to create a plane that could send spacecraft into suborbital space, and Vulcan Aerospace is building the biggest plane ever, just so it could launch spacecraft into space.
SpaceX has ambitious plans for the future that include sending humans to Mars and becoming NASA's go-to in regards to delivering astronauts to the International Space Station.