SpaceX, the private space flight company founded buy South African-born Elon Musk, has reported that the first major test of its re-usable rocket technology is showing promising results. The company launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida last night, which was successfully manoeuvred back to Earth for a soft landing in the Atlantic ocean.
The 20-storey high rocket was used to carry one of SpaceX’s Dragon capsules into orbit on a routine resupply mission to the International Space Station. After the first stage rocket detached from the payload, it performed a controlled re-entry guided by SpaceX engineers in order to test the firm’s landing legs, which it hopes will eventually be used to recover rockets for reuse, cutting the cost of spaceflight by up to 100 times.
Up until now, launch rockets have been single use: they are left to burn up on reentry into the atmosphere after powering a payload capsule into space. The experimental Falcon was fitted with engines for re-entry and a set of legs which were programmed to deploy seconds before landing in the ocean.
Following the launch, Musk tweeted the progress of the mission. When the Falcon splashed down in the early hours of this morning he wrote:
“Data upload from tracking plane shows landing in Atlantic was good! Several boats enroute through heavy seas. Flight computers continued transmitting for 8 seconds after reaching the water. Stopped when booster went horizontal.”
Expect more updates throughout the day.
[Image – SpaceX]