Billionaire Elon Musk‘s SpaceX could change the space-flight as we know it on Tuesday. The company will try to make one of the boldest maneuvers in the history of rocketry to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean. Until now, the multi-million dollar rockets that go up come down as trash in the ocean. Musk likens it to throwing away a Boeing 747 airliner after a single flight.
SpaceX’s fifth resupply mission
SpaceX says the ability to reuse the rockets could reduce the launch costs to just 1% of what they are now. At 6:20 AM EST on Tuesday, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will lift off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to supply cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). It will be the company’s fifth resupply mission under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA.
It will be carrying more than 5,000 pounds of equipment and supplies. The Dragon capsule atop the Falcon rocket will have an IMAX movie camera, an instrument to measure the distribution of dust particles and clouds, and a lab habitat to study fruit flies among other things. The mission was initially scheduled for Dec.19. But it was postponed after a test-firing of Falcon 9’s nine engines didn’t go as planned.
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This time, SpaceX will attempt to land first stage of Falcon 9 rocket on a barge floating in the Atlantic Ocean, about 200 miles from Jacksonville, Florida. Elon Musk said the first stage of the rocket is as tall as a 14-story building. SpaceX has built a 300-feet long and 170-feet wide floating platform for the first rocket stage to land on.
50% chance of success
The California-based company has tried similar maneuvers on three earlier flights. During the second and third attempts, the rocket slowed significantly before splashing into the ocean. They are unlikely to be reused. But Tuesday’s flight is a bit different. The company has added a set of “grin fins” to the Falcon 9 rocket. The fins will fold out after the separation to steer the rocket towards the floating platform.
If the maneuvers succeed, SpaceX will reuse the first stage of the rocket on future flights. Elon Musk says there is 50% chance of success.