The future of space travel is coming into focus rather quickly in that we’ll soon be relying on reusable rockets and reusable space fare equipment to get us where we need to go instead of one-time-use rockets and capsules that create more space junk than they’re worth.
SpaceX is one of the space industry leaders when it comes to reusable space equipment, and while we’ve witnessed several Falcon 9 launches and landings, including where SpaceX launches and re-lands previously-flown rockets, we’ve yet to see a used commercial space capsule go into space.
Also read: NASA's plans for sending mankind to Mars
That’s all set to change on Thursday however, as SpaceX will attempt a Falcon 9 rocket launch at approximately 5:55 P.M. EDT as it carries a previously-flown Dragon capsule containing 6,000 pounds of supplies, such as food and science experiments, to the International Space Station. It will be a first for SpaceX, but also for the commercial space industry as a whole.
Image Credit: SpaceX
The last time this particular capsule visited the International Space Station was in September of 2014, and nearly three years later following a little bit of refurbishment, it’s ready for another mission. The capsule landed in the Pacific Ocean after it served its purcpose with the help of parachutes back in the day, and now it has been suited up with improved heat shielding, which might even allow it to go up for a third time in the future.
It’s a waiting game to make sure the weather conditions are just right for a successful rocket launch, and so far, things are looking up (no pun intended). There’s a 70% chance for favorable weather conditions for rocket launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and if it works out, you’ll be able to watch the live stream below:
If it doesn’t work out as planned, there’s another open window of opportunity to launch the rocket on Saturday at 5:07 P.M. EDT.
After the rocket succeeds in its primary mission, SpaceX will attempt to land the rocket upright on solid ground at the landing facility in Cape Canaveral.
Not only are reusable rockets helping to cut the costs of rocket launches by a significant amount, but so are reusable capsules. It’s always more cost-efficient to re-use something that’s already built by adding fresh fuel than it is to put the money and resources into building something new, but the refurbishing process can be lengthy.
If the process can be sped up, not only can SpaceX help serve the space community more efficiently, but it can probably drive down the costs of space travel even more.
SpaceX will soon have to compete with Blue Origin and RocketLab, both of which are producing orbital altitude rockets capable of sending payloads into space for a fair price. The New Glenn rocket from Blue Origin will be reusable, but the Electron Rocket from RocketLab will not be; the latter cuts costs by being mostly 3D-printed versus built.
Source: The Verge