SpaceX Wants To Land A Rocket On A Floating Ocean Platform

SpaceX Wants To Land A Rocket On A Floating Ocean Platform
Image Credit: SpaceX-Imagery / Pixabay

Elon Musk’s SpaceX continues to push the boundaries of space travel, demonstrating the private sector as a viable alternative to state-run space agencies.

On December 16, SpaceX will launch its robotic Dragon capsule from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to the International Space Station (ISS). So far, standard procedure. However this time around it will attempt to bring the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket back down to Earth, coming to rest on a floating platform in the Atlantic.

If the company can successfully develop the reusable rocket technology, founder Elon Musk claims that the cost of spaceflight could be reduced by a factor of 100, possibly making the colonization of Mars economically viable.

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SpaceX’s new technology

In a Twitter post last month, Musk uploaded photos of the Falcon 9 and its landing platform, which increased interest in the 5th of 12 cargo flights that SpaceX is undertaking to resupply the ISS. The company has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA for the flights.

“Autonomous spaceport drone ship. Thrusters repurposed from deep sea oil rigs hold position within 3m even in a storm,” Musk tweeted on November 22. “Base is 300 ft by 100 ft, with wings that extend width to 170 ft. Will allow refuel & rocket flyback in future,” he later added.

The Falcon 9 will feature “grid fins” which are deployed on reentry to increase stability. According to Musk, “each fin moves independently for pitch/yaw/roll.” He gave the landing an estimated 50% chance of success on the first attempt, improving with each new attempt.

Encouraging results

Musk spoke at the “AeroAstro at 100” conference at MIT in October, celebrating a century of aerospace research at MIT, claimed that the company is “quite close” to landing and relaunching a rocket. Recent flights have seen a progression in the capabilities of the Falcon 9.

Three soft ocean landings have been made in the past 18 months, with successful controlled landings made on the last two attempts. This will be the first time that a platform is waiting to receive the rocket upon reentry. If SpaceX can consistently land and relaunch the Falcon 9 it will usher in an exciting new era in affordable space travel.

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While studying economics, Brendan found himself comfortably falling down the rabbit hole of restaurant work, ultimately opening a consulting business and working as a private wine buyer. On a whim, he moved to China, and in his first week following a triumphant pub quiz victory, he found himself bleeding on the floor based on his arrogance. The same man who put him there offered him a job lecturing for the University of Wales in various sister universities throughout the Middle Kingdom. While primarily lecturing in descriptive and comparative statistics, Brendan simultaneously earned an Msc in Banking and International Finance from the University of Wales-Bangor. He's presently doing something he hates, respecting French people. Well, two, his wife and her mother in the lovely town of Antigua, Guatemala. <i>To contact Brendan or give him an exclusive, please contact him at</i>
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  1. It’s currently $60 million, so it would end up at $600,000. The average price to LEO for a medium lift rocket is around $5K per pound. SpaceX is already the best at $2000 per pound. A factor of ten is $20 a pound! That’s only three or four thousand to get your average person into orbit. And that is why they are game changing.

  2. Reduce cost by a factor of 100? That would mean if it costs 6 million to send up a standard payload, It could be reduced to 60 thousand a flight. We pay Russia 72 million per seat..someones pocketbook is about to get a lot lighter…

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