The Spacecrafts part 2-A: The Rockets: The Falcon 9.

I’m going to do a sequence of five shorter, ~ 500 wordcount,  posts sometime over the next few weeks, and this is the first of them. I will still do a normal full sized post every Friday. I haven’t forgotten about the Dragon V2, either.


Rocket Profile 1: The Falcon 9 – A history maker!

Remember when space shuttle were touted as being superior to rockets because they were reusable, while rockets were…. not? Well, the tables have turned, according to this nbcnews article. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 successfully returned to Earth just yesterday, after having been safely landed on a previous trip. It landed safely on a drone ship after transporting a satellite into space. To quote Musk:

“It’s an amazing day I think for space as a whole. Something can be done that many people said was impossible”.

He noted that this revolutionary achievement fifteen years in the making has finally brought to an end the wasteful disposal of rockets after only one use, something he likens to throwing away an airplane after only one flight; he certainly has a point. To top it all off, it is expected to reduce flight costs dramatically (for one obvious reason, you don’t have to pay for a new rocket).

This is not the first rocket to achieve the amazing feat of going to space and back , of course, according to the article. SpaceX made 13 attemps so far over the years, with only five being unsuccessful. That’s a 62% success rate, which is not bad considering quite recently even one success would have been considered a technological marvel.

Firtststagefalcon9

What makes this noteworthy is that they actually reused the reusable rocket for the first time, and both times it was used for a mission. That means this wasn’t just a test, it is now functional! The long awaited future of reusable rockets is here! As Musk said in an interview:

“It means that humanity can become a spacefaring civilization and be out there among stars. This is what we want for the future”.

falcon9sideview

Musk has long vouched for the merit of rockets. The Falcon 9’s first mission was completed a year ago when it brought supplies to the ISS and then safely landed, ready and waiting for its next mission. It should be noted that only the main core of the ship is saved, the first stage.

That is not to say that relaunching will be a breeze. It can take as long as four months to verify that a rocket is good for relaunch. With practice, however, that time should shorten, and the overall cost go down even more. Nevertheless, this is an exciting development, and not one that I could miss covering.

Now that I’ve hopefully piqued your interest with this exciting news, let me tell you about some of the history and design of this remarkable rocket (which may be something of a favorite at SpaceX, I think. )

It is a two stage rocket, the first to be created in the 21st century.

falcon 9 reusability graph

The first stage has nine Merlin engines,  giving it a very nice amount of redundancy in case one gives out. They run on which run on liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene. The interstage (holds stages one and two together) has a pneumatic separation system instead of the usual pyrotechnic.  The second stage has a single Merlin Vacuum engine. This is what delivers the payload, otherwise known as the Dragon spacecraft. It brought the Dragon up to the ISS for the first time, making commercial spaceflight history. It has helped SpaceX make multiple deliveries to the ISS, and one day it may even carry humans into space. You can see its past and future flight schedule here, and even read the user manual here.

 


Thank you for reading, and I apologize for not getting to that bonus post on the Dragon V2 just yet. Please check back soon. Aside from the four mini-posts that I intend to do over the next few days, I also want to do a post on the current challenges facing spaceflight right now, and how they might be overcome.  What do you think of my posts so far? I look forward to hearing from you. Feedback is welcome and encouraged! 

 

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