SpaceX is going at it again. Having successfully vertically landed one of its Falcon 9 rockets on a land-based platform in December, Space X will once again try to land a rocket on one of the company’s droneships on Sunday.
Third time is the charm for Space X?
In December, SpaceX achieved the monumental feat of returning the first stage booster of its rocket after it had launched an array of communications satellites. This was viewed as a massive success by both the media and Elon Musk who believes that it’s a critical step in making rockets reusable in order to cut the cost flights by a factor of up to 1,000.
Despite that success, the company has failed on three separate occasions when looking to return its rockets to an ocean based platform on one of its autonomous droneships.
Aiming to launch this weekend and (hopefully) land on our droneship,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk yesterday “Ship landings needed for high velocity missions.”
In January of last year, the private space flight firm led by Tesla’s Elon Musk showed the world why these platforms are unmanned when the rocket crashed into the platform and an impressive explosion followed. In April 2015, SpaceX got closer but still failed when an engine malfunctioned causing the rocket to tip over into the sea.
At a cost of $60 to $90 million for each rocket, you can see why Musk is looking to reuse the rockets.
With the successful landing in December Musk became the second tech executive to successfully land a rocket upright joining Amazon and Blue Origins’ chief Jeff Bezos. It should be said that that rocket was considerably smaller and the landing was made after a sub-orbital flight.
SpaceX enjoys a successful static launch of rocket ahead of Sunday’s launch
If Sunday’s launch goes off on Sunday it will mark the launch of the last of SpaceX’s older Falcon 9 rockets. That same rocket was run through the motions this weeks with a full-duration static test fire from SpaceX’s lauchpad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
SpaceX doesn’t launch rockets simply to try to land them upright, and Sunday the last of the older Falcon 9s has been talked with launching NASA‘s and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Jason-3 oceanographic satellite.
The Jason-3 was designed in order to measure sea surface topography and is expected to launch just before 11AM on Sunday. If that launch is aborted there is a backup window slated form Monday morning.