Space X's Big Day

#1
Space X successfully launched a Dragon capsule into orbit loaded with 3 1/2 tons of supplies for the International Space Station. Among those supplies was an innovative inflatable module for the space station, built by Bigelow Aerospace of... Vegas, baby! Bigelow is the Skinwalker Ranch guy, MR will like that.

And then after successfully boosting that stuff towards orbit (there's a second stage too), the Falcon 9 booster successfully accomplished a perfect vertical rocket decelerated landing on a robot barge out in the Atlantic.

There's a video of the landing here:

http://www.space.com/32517-spacex-sticks...aunch.html

The thing comes in hot, at a surprisingly high rate of speed from one side, then slows to centimeters per second and turns vertical in the last split second. A white-knuckle ride.

Blue Origin has already repeated controlled vertical landings three times with a single booster, but SpaceX's booster is much larger and more ambitious, designed to put heavy payloads into orbit.

It's starting to look like the age of reusable rocket boosters is arriving, which will completely transform the economics of space travel. Imagine what airlines and air-travel ticket prices would be like if airliners could only be flown once.
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#2
It never occurred to me how much harder it is to land a rocket than to send one off. You've got to get the speed and the angle and spot of touchdown perfectly right. Three changing variables that make the feat even more amazing.
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#3
I recalled how retro (lucky pun) landing a rocket is.  I remember how they often did that in those very old science fiction movies.
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#4
(Apr 10, 2016 12:24 PM)elte Wrote: I recalled how retro (lucky pun) landing a rocket is.  I remember how they often did that in those very old science fiction movies.

Yah, most science fiction did assume that would be the very first or only way it could done, rather than with disposal booster stages and the mere splashdown recovery of a capsule. Even the shuttle era involved a glide-in landing rather than an upright one. At least space probe landers and lunar modules did their own miniature version of touchdown on legs (if not the other stereotypical spaceship fins).
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#5
(Apr 9, 2016 07:07 PM)Magical Realist Wrote: It never occurred to me how much harder it is to land a rocket than to send one off. You've got to get the speed and the angle and spot of touchdown perfectly right. Three changing variables that make the feat even more amazing.

It's amazing that they can do it.

I've wondered why they don't just have the rocket decelerate the thing during reentry, then have it descend with parachutes. I guess that rocket boosters are built to be light and are fragile, especially when they are empty. Perhaps they are too likely to be damaged with parachute descents.
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