The SpaceX Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket launched and landed successfully on the afternoon of May 11, opening up many opportunities for the future of space travel.
The first flight of the upgraded Falcon 9 rocket was actually delayed by a day, after an automatic abort was triggered on the planned May 10 launch. SpaceX was able to proceed with the rescheduled launch though, allowing the Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket to deliver its cargo to space and return to Earth.
SpaceX Upgraded Falcon 9 Rocket Nails Launch And Landing
The Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket lifted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center on May 11, at 4:14 p.m. EDT.
The first stage and second stage of the rocket separated after just 2.5 minutes. The second stage propelled its cargo, Bangladesh's Bangabandhu-1 satellite, into orbit 22,000 miles above Earth.
Meanwhile, the first stage returned to Earth, acing the landing on a so-called drone ship that SpaceX situated in the Atlantic Ocean, almost 400 miles away from the Kennedy Space Center.
The liftoff and landing of the Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket took less than 9 minutes. SpaceX made the whole thing look easy, but it took the company 51 flights to engineer the likely final version of the booster.
What The Falcon 9 Block 5 Rocket Means For Space Travel
The landing was the first one for the Block 5 version, but the 25th for a Falcon 9 rocket with an orbital launch. SpaceX has successfully re-flown previously used boosters 11 times.
All of these efforts have the goal of developing reusable rockets and spacecraft, which SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said is a priority in slashing the cost of space travel, to push forward ambitious missions such as the colonization of Mars.
After the successful launch and landing of the upgraded Falcon 9, Musk said that he is convinced that rockets may be launch, landed, and launched again within a span of 24 hours.
SpaceX made several changes for the Block 5 version of the Falcon 9, including an improved heat shield and retractable landing legs. The company is also working with NASA to meet safety requirements for the Falcon 9, as well as its Dragon spacecraft, to qualify them for manned missions.
NASA is requiring SpaceX to launch the Falcon 9 Block rocket at least seven times before allowing people on it. This goal will be reached sometime next year, as Musk said that he expects the rocket to have flown at least 10 times by the end of 2019.
Where space travel goes from there, only time will tell.