How SpaceX’s Engineers Plan To Make Their Rocket’s Return To The Ground?
“If one can figure out how to reuse rockets effectively just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred. a fully reusable vehicle has never been done before. That really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionize access to space.” — Elon Musk
The average cost to put the space shuttle into orbit is $450 million. That’s a huge price tag just to reach low earth orbit, and it’s also a big part of the reason why Elon Musk and SpaceX deadly want to make a reusable rocket.
In theory, the SpaceX’s Falcon 9 can be reused more than three-dozen times.
It’s a two-stage rocket designed for the reliable and safe transport of satellites and the Dragon spacecraft into orbit. Falcon 9’s simple two-stage configuration minimizes the number of separation events — and with nine first-stage engines, each one has a cycle of 40, it can safely complete its mission even in the event of an engine shutdown. Unlike most rockets that are designed to burn up on reentry, SpaceX rockets are designed not only to withstand reentry, but also return to the launch pad for a vertical landing. Able to throw 10692 lbs of payload to super synchronous transfer orbit at roughly $60 million per launch, the Falcon 9 is definitely much more economical. “It’s not obviously the entire system or the entire stage.This is a difficult thing to achieve. A lot of people in the aerospace industry think it’s not possible, and most in industry have given up on it. But we think it’s possible,” said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
The second stage, powered by a single Merlin vacuum engine, delivers Falcon 9’s payload to the desired orbit. This engine ignites a few seconds after stage separation, and can be restarted multiple times to place multiple payloads into different orbits. Both stages are made from a high-strength aluminum-lithium alloy.
Unlike pyrotechnic systems used on most launch rockets, SpaceX uses interstage, a composite structure to connect the first and second stages as well as to hold the release and separation system. This advanced technology is aimed for low-shock, highly reliable separation that can be tested on the ground.
This video gives you an idea of how a typical mission with the heavy-duty reusable rocket of SpaceX should go:
In the future, a Falcon Heavy rocket will do satellites up to 7 tonnes with full reusability of all three boost stages. This is possible since SpaceX had done another test with the result of the Falcon 9 almost nailing reentry and landed. “Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho,” tweeted Elon.
SpaceX will continue to conduct reusability testing both at the Rocket Development Facility in McGregor and eventually at Spaceport America in New Mexico. “I’m sure we can work it out,” confirmed Elon.