Space X has returned to Low Earth Orbit once again, with the successful launch of a Falcon 9 rocket over the weekend. In its first launch since a random unscheduled disassembly (RUD) on the launchpad in 2016, the rocket not only delivered its payload to orbit, but the first stage was successfully recovered aboard the drone ship, Just Read The Instructions.
Although Space X had a successful string of launches in last year, in September that came to a halt with a giant explosion on the launchpad. That RUD took more than the Falcon 9 rocket with it, it took the satellite payload that was aboard it too. The Facebook backed satellite cost over $200 million – it was a catastrophic event.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 15, 2017
Fortunately Space X quickly identified the problem and has adjusted its fuel loading procedure accordingly. That seems to have helped it return to form, as it was capable of safely delivering its payload to orbit and returning the first stage booster safely to Earth. That makes this launch much more efficient that disposable launches of yesteryear and begins deployment of the planned 72 satellite Iridium satellite network which will transmit voice and data communications.
Skip to 19:30 to watch the launch
That network will replace the original Iridium network that was launched throughout the ’90s, with the network slated to be completed and online by the end of 2017. For that to happen Space X will need a near perfect record over the next 12 months.
First stage has landed on Just Read the Instructions pic.twitter.com/W0EoLaO4YR
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 14, 2017
Landing the first stage booster back on the drone barge has once again proved the viability of using recoverable rocket stages, which will go a long way to helping make Space X perhaps the most efficient and affordable rocketry firm in the world.
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KitGuru Says: If Space X can just get its reliability up a little higher, it won’t be long before ISS bound astronauts can fly up in its spacious Dragon pods. They must be itching to get away from those super cramped, ancient Soyuz designs.