SpaceX Will Try Launch, Then Soft-Land Returning Booster
Space, the final frontier, is also the most expensive one.
Reaching Earth orbit typically costs between ten- to twenty-thousand-dollars per kilogram. That's because rocketry is the only form of transportation where you throw away your vehicle once you’ve reached your destination. But that might change as soon as January of next year, when Space Exploration Technologies, also known as SpaceX, plans to launch a rocket into space, then bring the rocket’s first stage back for a precision landing.
After launching a payload on a resupply mission to the International Space Station, Space X’s Falcon 9 first stage will deploy hypersonic stabilizing fins and fire its engines four times, steering itself to an upright touchdown on a robotic barge floating in the Atlantic Ocean. Think of a 14-story building moving faster than a kilometer per second. And now imagine slowing it down, balancing it on a jet of rocket exhaust and landing it with an accuracy of 10 meters on a target smaller than a football field.
It won’t be easy—company representatives only give the precision landing 50–50 odds. But if successful, SpaceX’s audacious test could soon lead to cheaper, fully reusable rockets that make the final frontier not quite so financially challenging.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]