Drones

Elon Musk reveals SpaceX drone ships will retrieve reusable rockets

Elon Musk reveals SpaceX drone...
A Falcon 9 rocket with grid fins deployed
A Falcon 9 rocket with grid fins deployed
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"Hypersonic grid fins" will help SpaceX rockets land
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"Hypersonic grid fins" will help SpaceX rockets land
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasting off
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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasting off
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket prior to launch
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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket prior to launch
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with landing legs stowed
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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with landing legs stowed
A Falcon 9 rocket with grid fins deployed
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A Falcon 9 rocket with grid fins deployed
SpaceX's autonomous floating spaceport drone from above
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SpaceX's autonomous floating spaceport drone from above
A SpaceX rocket completing a controlled landing
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A SpaceX rocket completing a controlled landing
SpaceX currently has contracts to launch resupply missions to the International Space Station
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SpaceX currently has contracts to launch resupply missions to the International Space Station
A Falcon 9 rocket with grid fins deployed
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A Falcon 9 rocket with grid fins deployed
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Back in July, SpaceX released a video showing a soft landing on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean of one of its Falcon 9 boosters equipped with three landing legs. The landing appeared to be a success, as the booster hit the water at almost zero velocity and then tipped over sideways. Now SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has revealed new details on how the company will actually retrieve rockets to reuse them: autonomous spaceport drone ships.

The billionaire entrepreneur tweeted out a photo of the floating landing pad, noting that it is equipped with "thrusters repurposed from deep sea oil rigs (that) hold position within 3m, even in a storm."

Musk added that the base of the sea-faring spaceport measures "300 ft by 100 ft, with wings that extend width to 170 ft." He said it will facilitate refueling and "rocket flyback in (the) future."

We learned the unsurprising news that SpaceX was working on landing pads from Musk last month, but this is the first image we've seen of the floating spaceport and the first we've heard that they'll function as autonomous drones.

In addition to revealing where his reusable rockets will land, he also provided a few details into how they'll be maneuvered after re-entry, describing "hypersonic grid fins" that are stowed when the rockets leave the atmosphere, but deploy on the return trip for what Musk calls "x-wing" style control.

"Each fin moves independently for pitch/yaw/roll," he tweeted.

Musk says the grid fins are similar to those seen in the video below (they deploy around 1:10 in), but larger.

Source: Twitter

F9R 1000m Fin Flight | Onboard Cam and Wide Shot

View gallery - 9 images
9 comments
MattII
One more first for Elon Musk.
Martin Winlow
That is one cool video. Is it just me or do Mr Musk's rocket motors seem a lot quieter than others? The cows didn't seem to be very bothered! MW
Chuchat Prasertkun
Drone weapon were successful. As far as man-made and man safety for used .
William Mosby
I'm enthused about this, it's one of the most interesting developments in rocketry in a very long time.
f8lee
So... the rocket will make a powered landing (disturbing local cattle or not)? Doesn't that imply it will need to lift that much more weight in fuel when it initially takes off?
MattII
Yes, but at least you can use it again afterwards, dramatically reducing production costs. Even if they get only one more use out of the things, and refurbishing costs half as much as building a new rocket, they're still going to get 4 launches for the price of 3.
Slowburn
@ Martin Winlow Cows figure out that the noise isn't going to hurt them and ignore it. @ f8lee Fuel is the cheapest part of the rocket.
toolman65
@f8lee raises a valid point. don' forget that the booster will be dropping from a much higher altitude than shown in the video...requiring more fuel to come down safely and more fuel again to carry that extra fuel to altitude. why don't they use a parachute or some sort of air brake to help? also, why does the space x logo look so much like reebok's?
Facebook User
I agree that Mr Musk's rocket motors do seem quieter and better controlled than others, and pretty cool to see the cows at the end of the clip.