Space travel might be difficult and expensive, but sometimes everything goes to plan. That’s what happened in the case of Space X’s launch last week, which used a Falcon 9 to send a payload bound for the International Space Station into orbit, before touching back down on a drone barge. Completing the successful mission, the resupply capsule has now successfully docked.
Landing from the chase plane pic.twitter.com/2Q5qCaPq9P
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 8, 2016
In this, Space X’s third launch with its Falcon 9 v1.1 system, a giant success was recorded when it was returned safely to Earth and touched down without incident on Space X’s automated barge. While previous attempts have been made and a successful land-based touchdown has been recorded, this was the first time it was able to land safely at sea.
While Friday saw a big success though, Sunday saw another, as the Dragon capsule, successfully launched into orbit by the returning rocket two days before, docked with the International Space Station, delivering the ever-needed supplies. Perhaps more importantly though, it also dropped off a new type of crew compartment, which could revolutionise space permanence.
As it stands, the ISS is constructed with heavy, metallic components. The new Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, is an inflatable space ship habitat, which weighs far less than traditional ISS segments. It will be expanded and left for testing, un-crewed and uninhabited, for the next two years.
Experiments will be conducted in it and on its structural integrity, but safety precautions will be taken. It’s hoped that all will be well by the end of its experimental phase, at which point it may be that future space stations are constructed from similar segments, making them far easier to put together and much more economical to get into space in the first place.
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KitGuru Says: An all round successful launch. Now we turn to the first Space X launch to re-use a booster segment. If that craft can land safely, then we have a truly re-usable rocket on our hands.