Why SpaceX will succeed

Never mind the usual snooze media headlines about SpaceX botching, stumbling, or failing to softly land their Falcon 9 first stage last Saturday. What they did “astonishingly right,” as aerospace engineer Rand Simberg puts it, certainly justifies plenty of optimism for next time.

After stage separation about 90 km high, they relit three of the first stage’s nine engines to slow down from about 3,000 mph. After re-entry, three more engines were relit to aim it at the tiny (from so high up) drone ship with its bulls-eye landing platform and four small fins were deployed to help steer it. Slowed down sufficiently, a single engine relight was all that was needed for a soft landing.

“With the exception of the final landing itself, almost everything went according to plan,” Simberg writes. “The vehicle entered intact, flew to the ship, and (apparently literally) hit the deck, because the hydraulic fluid that controlled the fins ran short by 10% of that needed to control and softly land.

“But in so doing, it accomplished another major ‘first,’ not just for a private company, but for any space ship. Previous Falcon flights had demonstrated the ability to enter the stage intact by retrothrusting (as opposed to simply braking against the atmosphere), but this was the first time such a vehicle had not only survived entry, but flown precisely to a pre-designated location, without wings.”

Space X will try again Jan. 29. When they finally succeed, as they almost certainly will, the next step will be to figure out how much it will cost to quickly and reliably, reuse the stage to cut their about $61 million price of a Falcon 9 launch.

Unlike the snooze media, bureaucratic NASA must be green with envy.

Via PJMedia.

2 responses to “Why SpaceX will succeed

  1. Well, I wouldn’t discard NASA that easily, after all they have done a few miracles on Martian landings and (still ongoing) research, setting all kinds of reliability and durability records there. But yes, the vertical landing of this kind so far was done only in the movies. Wondrous stuff, really.

    After all, it’s all about competition. The more the merrier.

  2. NASA does robots to perfection. Otherwise they are a bloated bureaucracy raising the price of everything they do. And, until Barry came along (ironically) stifling competition. As for reliability, they lost two space shuttles and all of their crews, including, I’m sure you remember, the only Israeli astronaut. All in pursuit of going nowhere endlessly in low orbit.