Space

SpaceX nails historic first space rocket landing

SpaceX nails historic first sp...
The Falcon 9 made history's first controlled landing of an orbital space rocket
The Falcon 9 made history's first controlled landing of an orbital space rocket
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The Falcon 9 carried 11 communications satellites
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The Falcon 9 carried 11 communications satellites
Falcon 9 on the launch pad
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Falcon 9 on the launch pad
Falcon 9 lifting off
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Falcon 9 lifting off
The Falcon 9 booster touching down
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The Falcon 9 booster touching down
The Falcon 9 made history's first controlled landing of an orbital space rocket
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The Falcon 9 made history's first controlled landing of an orbital space rocket

A new era of spaceflight began today with SpaceX successfully making the first landing of an orbital space booster rocket. At 8:39 pm EST at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida a Falcon 9 first stage rocket booster made a controlled, powered touchdown on land after delivering 11 communications satellites into low Earth orbit for the Orbcomm-2 mission.

The landing occurred 10 minutes after the 8:29 pm EST launch of the Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 40. The evening launch took place under partly cloudy skies with winds at about 10 mph (16 km/h). One minute after lift off, the rocket reached Max Q or the point of maximum stress and the first stage shut down at the two minute 20 second mark with second stage separation and firing occurring four seconds later. The protective payload fairing jettisoned at three minutes, the second stage engine shut down 10 minutes into the flight, and at 15 minutes the first of the satellites began deployment with the final satellite released at 8:49 pm.

Meanwhile, the Falcon 9 first stage, instead of crashing into the Atlantic Ocean, re-oriented itself and executed a "boostback" burn to kill its suborbital hypersonic velocity, followed by a re-entry burn four minutes later to further slow it down. As it re-entered the atmosphere, A set of vanes deployed on the top of the booster and acted as rudders to guide the rocket down.

Falcon 9 lifting off
Falcon 9 lifting off

About 10 minutes after liftoff, the engines fired for a final time to bring the Falcon 9 in for a soft landing at 8:39 pm at Landing Zone 1, which is the previous Space Launch Complex 13 last used in 1978. According to SpaceX, the entire landing maneuver was carried out by the booster's autonomous guidance computer. As the rocket touched down, mission control broke out in cheers and chants of "USA."

According to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, the launch was postponed 24 hrs to provide a 10 percent greater chance of success. As a further precaution, local communities were warned of a sonic boom as the rocket returned. This increase in the safety margin was a considerable factor because today's launch also marked the first flight of a Falcon 9 since the CRS-7 was destroyed when a strut broke in the second stage, causing an oxygen bottle to overpressurize and the rocket to explode.

The 11 Orbcomm satellites delivered now complete a 17-satellite, low Earth orbit constellation for Orbcomm and is designed to provide machine-to-machine communications to and from remote locations.

You can check out the historic touchdown in the video below.

Source: SpaceX

30-sec TECH: SpaceX makes history

18 comments
mhpr262
Elon does it again. A genuine, real-life Iron Man!
Daishi
Well done and an amazing achievement. Between SolarCity, Tesla, and SpaceX I am constantly impressed by what Musk's companies are doing. I hope the US keeps tax incentives around for solar panels and EV's. There is so much progress being made it seems crazy to pull the plug on supporting those efforts now.
Teaser-Trailer.com
Impressive! The guys at SpaceX are real heroes! Let's hope they will get us to Mars and beyond!
MattII
Well, this is good news all around, not only has it been proven, but the rocket can be taken apart for study, and possible revamp.
Bob Stuart
All I really notice is fuel being wasted. A rocket at low speed looks sillier than Monty Python. We don't need ICBM launch times for space work, we need wings in use as far up as they are useful.
bobcat4424
The world got to witness a sea change in outer space launches. With reusability, suddenly the expense of a launch gets so low that a whole new world of options becomes available for manned spaceflight. e.g., the problem with shielding astronauts on long space flights was a problem because the protection was highly correlated with weight. Now heavy shielding is seriously less expensive to loft. Another example is that the extremely expensive sea recoveries will soon be history as well. A solid vision and an innovative spirit can work wonders. Go SpaceX! BTW, Jeff Bezos: You are not a member of "the club." The X-15 is and the Space Shuttle is, but Blue Origin is not. The Falcon is doing real work for real money and making a profit. BO is creating an extremely dangerous toy for rich kids --- and you and Virgin Galactic are in that "club" ---- one with a very low bar. In fact the bar is almost exactly 1/900th the height of the Falcon 9.
Psyclo
Bob, the fuel is an insignificant expense. That 15 story 1st stage rocket and the 9 engines on it is extremely expensive, so being able to save and reuse it will save SpaceX a lot of money and enable them to reduce the cost to orbit for all of their clients, including NASA. You seem to be suggesting that we use airplane technology to get cargo high up before using something else to get to orbit. That would use a lot more fuel than a rocket, be more expensive to build and be very time consuming to launch. This think took less than 10 minutes to deliver a payload to orbit and come back down for a landing. That is amazing!
steveraxx
Are you kidding me is all I could think. Wow! Seeing this, and seeing it executed so well is simply stunning. Cannot even imagine the maths that goes into something like this. Awesome accomplishment guys, simply awesome!
Douglas Bennett Rogers
This is the real beginning of commercial space!
Lbrewer42
Yankee ingenuity at its finest. The current government leader gets rid of the Shuttles to make us dependent on other nations for our space activities and kill our lead in space exploration. So the private sector takes over and hits a home run. Get rid of the red tape, bureaucrats, and self-minded politicians and look what is accomplished. Let's take a lesson from this shall we?