After a troubled 2015, Space X has been landing first stage boosters from its Falcon 9 rocket all year. But the only way these recycled boosters can save the company money is if they can actually be re-used. On the road to that first re-usable rocket system, Space X has completed the first full-burn test of a returned, grounded rocket.
The booster used in this test was the one originally launched in May this year. That’s not the first booster that Space X landed on solid ground, nor the one that first landed back successfully on the drone barge, but the second of that particular club of rockets. Its original mission was to get the JCSAT-14 communication satellite into orbit, which it did successfully.
Now though we look to the future, where rockets like this may be reused in future Falcon 9 launches, but to confirm that it will do so successfully and safely, it needs to be tested. The full-scale burn which took place yesterday was the first time Space X has turned on one of its recovered boosters to their full extent and by all measures, the test went perfectly.
The test took place at Space X’s Texas rocket developmental facility, where it burned for just over two minutes, before being shut down. Nothing exploded, nothing fell apart and the rocket didn’t break free from its housing.
The most impressive part is that there were no issues with any of the nine engines which these Falcon 9 boosters employ. Although the layout and composition of the rocket is designed specifically to continue on task even if one of the engines should fail, the fact that they were all sent out of Earth’s atmosphere, before returning to Earth and landing without a damaging impact, is an impressive feat.
The real test of course will be when one of the recovered boosters is re-used as part of a major launch, but considering how well this went, that shouldn’t be too far away.
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KitGuru Says: Great to see the test go off without a hitch. It would have been a real bummer to see that piece of engineering explode on the launch pad.