SpaceX is known for their delivery of reusable Falcon 9 rockets into orbital altitude every so often. With almost every launch as of late, SpaceX tries at landing the rocket either on a drone ship at sea or on a dry-land launch pad. Of course, it wouldn’t be SpaceX if they weren’t pushing the baseline as time moved on.
The company has progressed to more frequent launching and landing of not just reusable Falcon 9 rockets, but refurbished ones at that. And this Friday, SpaceX impressed even itself, as it launched a heavy 8,000-pound satellite dubbed BulgariaSat-1 into space at the proper orbital altitude and then successfully landed the twice-used rocket on a drone ship.
Image Credit: SpaceX/YouTube
Unlike other rocket launches previously, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter that this rocket faced the harshest landing conditions of any Falcon 9 rocket to date. Not only did it come back to Earth with the highest re-entry force ever, but it was also put through a substantial amount of heat.
Falcon 9 will experience its highest ever reentry force and heat in today's launch. Good chance rocket booster doesn't make it back.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 23, 2017
Even Musk admitted that there was a high chance the rocket wouldn’t survive the landing, but mouths dropped when the rocket later successfully landed upright, just like other rockets before it.
Rocket is extra toasty and hit the deck hard (used almost all of the emergency crush core), but otherwise good— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 23, 2017
The end result? The rocket most likely won’t be used for a third time. Musk says that the used booster was ‘toasted’ by the extreme heat and that because it hit the deck of the drone ship so hard, the emergency crush core built into the space vehicle to absorb impact was almost completely used up.
You can watch the rocket launch below:
Being that this was only the second time SpaceX has launched a used Falcon 9 rocket and landed it successfully, it was quite the major achievement for the company worthy of applause.
Although it seemed like an impossible idea just a few years or decades ago, it would seem we are quickly approaching a day and age where reusable rocket technology will be the norm, significantly reducing space launch costs and expanding space access to more commercial and private sectors than ever before.
It will be interesting to see what kind of dicey rocket launch SpaceX has planned for next time.