SpaceX Falcon 9 is successfully relaunched and retrieved
While SpaceX’s orbiting cars and Martian ambitions attract the bulk of media attention, the company’s most revelatory contribution to space travel has been the continued development of its reusable, Falcon 9 rockets.
The latest iteration of the rocket, dubbed the “Block 5”, has just been successfully relaunched and retreived by SpaceX, marking the first time the company has carried out the operation on said iteration. The Block 5 Falcon 9 was previously launched back in May 2018, with its first successful relaunch taking place on Monday.
While this isn’t the first time that SpaceX has successfully relaunched one of its rockets, it does mark the first time that the eminently reusable Block 5 rocket has achieved the feat. Now, onlookers are eagerly awaiting the third relaunch of the Block 5 Falcon 9, an endeavour that, were it to come to fruition, would mark the first time ever a booster had been used three times.
The achievement would serve as some timely PR for SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, who recently got into hot water on Twitter for calling a rescue diver in the Thai cave operation a “pedo”.
The Block 5 is significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, Musk has said that it could mark the final big change for the Falcon 9, signaling an end to major optimisations for the booster. Secondly, SpaceX is aiming to fly each Block 5 it builds a minimum of ten times. That’s a big leap, considering that up to now Falcon 9 rockets have only been reused a single time.
SpaceX also wants to drastically reduce the turnaround time for these launches from a period of months to a matter of weeks. If it manages to do all of this, it could open the doors to substantially cheaper launches, which has the potential to ripple into all sorts of industries looking to extend into space, from tourism to renewable energy.
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All of this very much depends on the success of the Block 5, meaning there’s a sizeable amount of attention on this maiden booster’s performance. The rocket has been used to transport Bangladesh’s first geostationary communications satellite to a high-energy geostationary transfer orbit, before separating and returning to Earth – landing on the company’s “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship.
The development of the Falcon 9 will also play a big part in the future of SpaceX’s larger rocket, the Falcon Heavy, and the company’s wider ambitions to one day create an interplanetary spaceship capable of bringing astronauts to Mars.