What a time to be alive — what a time for aerospace engineering: SpaceX, under the helm of Elon Musk, has successfully launched and landed the second Falcon 9 rocket in just roughly 48 hours.
SpaceX Successfully Launches Reused Falcon 9 Rocket
The mission, for its client Iridium, a global satellite telecommunications provider, saw SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launch from the company's Vandenberg Air Force base on June 25 in California, carrying a payload of 10 satellites meant to push forward Iridium's ambitions to create a global network.
The launch, which lends SpaceX two big achievements in its "weekend doubleheader," show the company's progressive prowess in building and reusing rockets — though not without failures here and there, surely. Iridium comes as SpaceX's ninth rocket launch for 2017 — the most the company has completed in just a single year.
The rocket's 230-foot-tall first stage, housing nine engines, descended on the drone ship called "Just Read the Instructions." Together with "Of Course I Still Love You" for Cape Canaveral launches, the company's drone ships — landing platforms in the ocean — take inspiration from sci-fi author Iain M. Banks.
Earlier in the day, Musk had warned that landing Falcon 9 might be tricky that time around, in part because of weather conditions, which were described as borderline, The Verge notes.
A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on Jun 25, 2017 at 2:41pm PDT
Why SpaceX's Reusable Rockets Matter
Despite Musk's forewarning, the rocket landed without problems, marking the company's 13th successful landing overall and its eighth at sea. Why does that matter? Well, SpaceX's future rests on its ability as a space company to convince clients that it can reuse its rockets.
SpaceX's success could undercut other space companies that typically have to build new rockets for every mission — a costly and inefficient method of bringing things into space, especially now that SpaceX can offer more cost-effective solutions. Reusing rockets is a crucial concept SpaceX has studied and labored over to slash costs in rocket manufacturing, engineering, and launching.
This has never been done before, for the record, so SpaceX has essentially made history — and is making history, still. The innovation could pave the way for larger space travel ambitions, such as going further into space, possibly Mars.
As for Iridium, SpaceX's successful Falcon 9 launch brings the company's satellite count to 20. That's nowhere near its plan to bring 75 satellites in total intended to innovate phone and data coverage globally, but surely it's progress nevertheless. Should Iridium continue using SpaceX's services, it could complete its constellation sooner than expected.
SpaceX's back-to-back launches feature the shortest span between two succeeding launches, shooting a refurbished Falcon 9 booster skyward on Friday, June 23, launching Bulgaria's first communication satellite into space.
However, SpaceX originally didn't plan for its week to be so hectic. The launch on Friday was originally scheduled for last weekend until the company had to replace a valve in the fairing — or the cone holding the satellite.
That said, the surprise schedule shake-up doesn't seem to have affected the company's rocket launches one bit — and the most recent launch could further prove that SpaceX is on its way to launch, land, refurbish, and relaunch more rockets going forward.