Falcon 9 is carrying four landing legs, which will deploy partway into the landing burn. Eventually, SpaceX hopes to land the first stage on land. Though success is unlikely with this test, it represents an exciting effort toward someday developing a reusable rocket.
Why is today's SpaceX mission so important? Reusable rockets
— By Tyler Falk on April 14, 2014, 9:58 AM PST
Rocket reusability was an original goal of the Space Shuttle. This was lost with NASA cutbacks starting with Johnson through Carter. It was a heady era. NOVA, up to 20 F one engines burning into a single chamber, this first stage soft landing into a receiver pond and reused. Winged first stage to land on a runway while a five to ten ton payload goes to LEO, the upper stage coming around, landing by paraglider into a receiving body of water near a launch site.
Musk is trying something that is really, really, did I say really hard. Landing legs, deployed as the first stage detaches, slowing it to several hundred miles per hour where the one of 9 Merlin engines fire to slow it to touch down. I did some math while watching an old English movie about Henry VIII, so bear with me.
-You lose some mass to LEO doing this, but based on Merlin ISp it is well below cargo requirement for the ISS, or putting 7 astronauts up. Slowing a 35,000 pound empty mass, and enough fuel to cut from about 450 MPH to where springiness of the carbon - carbon based legs can withstand, is about 4.5 G acceleration against air resistance and gravity, or (1.2G), or about 8 seconds of Merlin single engine thrust. It is not a lot. Want to hover for 20 seconds to maneuver to a landing pad on some quasi tropical Atlantic Island, its a bit more than 12,000 pounds of fuel in a rocket that overall can deliver more than three times that to LEO if this approach is not used. My concern given the helium leak issue yesterday is fragile connections, else boom!
It is a saw off.
With a Falcon 1.1, Heavy, or Super Heavy XX, (a real Big Dumb Rocket) the math indicates third drop of LEO capacity if this approach is used. With $2 million fuel cost with $54 million per core cost, that is very acceptable. A heavy delivering 80,000 pounds to LEO this way with only $12 million turn around cost ( $6 million fuel, $6 million refurbishing at the plant) this represents a huge savings per pound to LEO. Assume 100% markup for costs, raising launch to $24 million to put 80,000 pounds up, that is $300 a pound. How much does Russia, China, EU, or Boeing charge now? Me, weighing 175 pounds, a suit, consumable for a couple of weeks, that's under $230 grand, take the wife for a spin around the globe and some "science experiments" with the 200 mile high club, priceless! But I wouldn't do it twice, too much of a dent in the retirement fund...
My math may be a bit off (wine and a curly red head after work) and a Maui sunset distracting me...
The problem with trying to recover the Falcon 9 like this is it has to carry enough fuel to come back and land with. That has to significantly reduce the payload it can carry.
If they're launching from Cape Canaveral where do they plan on landing the thing? If they're not that sure about their ability to land it then it had better not be near any human habitation in case they can't control it.
Didn't we hear the same exact arguments of cost effectiveness with the Space Shuttle? Admittedly, man-rated vehicles are extremely complex and more costly to refurbish, but I think the fact that NASA moved away from reusable may mean this is doomed from the start. I hope not.
Thank God for Space X Congrats Space X for making NASA look like total failures ,I see space X as the future,i'm sorry to say NASA has turned in to garbage, NASA lost it's place in the new space race I'll be glad to see Space X's Crew vehicle in flight,Good Job Mr. Musk!
@operator2001 For what we spent on Shuttle missions, we would have been better off just building disposable Saturn Vs. Not only would we have saved a lot of money, but we would have been launching far bigger loads much farther into orbit and beyond.