Space flight is risky business. The unfortunate SpaceX Falcon 9 recent explosion is just another reminder. This is the second time in just over a year that Elon Musk has lost a rocket. But this setback won’t stop this man. Not Elon Musk. Neither his team.
We are entering a new era in space exploration. A new commercial aerospace industry is emerging.
Today, this disaster may look like a big deal. And it is. Customers and insurers are going to be harder to find. Investors are going to be weary. But in the long term, this setback will seem small, like many other roadblocks men have found along their way when pressing the limits.
SpaceX is testing new technologies, new materials, new procedures. If anyone out there believes that success comes without failures, he is out of touch with the realities of innovation. The Wright Brothers crashed many gliders until the Flyer I made the historical first powered flight in Kitty Hawk in 1903. And now SpaceX is making history. Reusable rockets are a breakthrough that are essential to making spaceflight cheaper.
In 2016, SpaceX has managed to successfully land 6 boosters. One of them landed beautifully on a ground pad on July 18th. As one of SpaceX engineers put it, vertical landing of a booster after a space trip is like throwing a pencil over the Empire State Building and expecting it to land vertically on a mouse pad on the other side of the building. This feat is not easy at all. The rocket reenters the atmosphere at hypersonic speed, and with the aid of steering grid fins, reentry thrusters and lots of navigational control, it manages to make a soft touch-down on the landing pad. And it stays put, vertically. It’s awesome.
This incident is going to put lot of pressure on the SpaceX launch slate. They were already behind schedule and this is going to provoke more delays. NASA is relying on the Falcon 9 for cargo resupply missions and many commercial satellites are slated to be launched as well. But never fear. I am sure they will soon recover and manage to deliver highly reliable and reusable rockets.
We are entering a new era in space exploration. A new commercial aerospace industry is emerging. I am confident that this event won’t interfere with SpaceX’s vision:
“revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets”
Well done folks. Thanks for all your hard work. You are on your way to transform space exploration forever.
First update: On February 19th 2017 a new success story for SpaceX was confirmed. The Falcon 9 rocket departed for the ISS with the Dragon cargo ship. The lift off was made from the mythical ramp 39-A at Kennedy Space Centre. Around seven minutes later, the first phase of the rocket (called B1031) landed where it was supposed to, on platform LZ-1, located a few kilometres away.
Second Update: On May 30, 2020 a Falcon 9 rocket and the Crew Dragon capsule were launched from Cape Canaveral platform 39A on the first manned space mission by a private company, SpaceX. The capsule successfully docked at the ISS about 19 hours after reaching orbit. This marks yet another milestone in the history of the space race.