What’s the point of returning a rocket from space to Earth, landing it upright, shipping it to a hanger for storage if you’re not going to use it again? Exactly, and that’s precisely what SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk plans to do this September after taking to Twitter to announce his intentions.
SpaceX Plans for Mars
Last week saw Elon Musk reminding us that he truly does have every intention of taking both his rockets and people to Mars. Musk said that those plans would begin in 2018 with an unmanned trip to the Red Planet and that he hoped to put humans on Mars by 2024. Never-mind the expected hell that is the journey or the fact that it will be a one way trip, seven people are expected to make the trip.
Musk plans to use SpaceX’s Flying Dragon version 2 for the manned flight in 2024.
“It is intended to carry astronauts to the International Space Station,” said Musk at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. on Wednesday night. “But we are going to send one to Mars in 2018.”
The inside of the rocket is hardly the height of luxury with the capsule expected to be about the size of a SUV and it will take a full six months to get there.
“I would not recommend traveling to Mars in that,” he said. “It would be a long time to spend on an SUV.”
About the return trip? “It also does not have the capability to get back to earth, we put that in the fine print.”
“If you’re going to choose a place to die, then Mars is not a bad choice,” he said.
First rocket reuse
“Fourth rocket arrives in the hangar,” Musk tweeted on Tuesday. “Aiming for first reflight on Sept/Oct.”
That tweet included a photo of the four rockets that have been successfully landed back on Earth three of which were landed on SpaceX’s drone ship. After a few failed landings on the drone ship (that were quite close to successful) the company was finally successful on April 8.
While Musk declined to say which of its clients’ cargo would be delivered by the refitted and reused rocket in September/October, he did say that the rocket from the April 8 landing would be the rocket that would be making its second flight. In the nearly six decades since the first rocket was launched into space, only SpaceX has gone into orbit and then successfully landed on Earth. Blue Origins, the private “space” company of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’ has vertically landed its own rockets but they were only in a sub-orbit before returning to Earth.
While again, no customer was mentioned SES, a satellite operator based in Luxembourg, is a pretty good guess. Earlier this year, Martin Halliwell, chief technology officer at SES, made it quite clear in an interview that he wanted that distinction for SES and the company has a contract with SpaceX for six more launches.
Prior to the planned relaunch of one of its rockets, SpaceX is planning on launching a commercial communications satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 14.
While NASA has had a banner 2015-2016, SpaceX certainly has as well. The company is now poised to realize its dream of reusing a rocket after its successful landings.