Truly reusable rockets could dramatically change the space industry. Until now, almost all rockets that achieve orbit are either destroyed or can’t be recovered. This means that we have to start from scratch with an entirely new rocket for each new launch, and that’s expensive. For over five years now, SpaceX has been working to create reusable rockets that could save millions of dollars and make missions cheaper. Elon Musk's company has already landed its Falcon 9 rockets on land and at sea, and the next project is getting them back into space.
Mar 31, 2017
Yesterday, SpaceX demonstrated an important capability of its Falcon 9 rocket fleet: the vehicles are capable of launching to space multiple times. From Cape Canaveral, Florida, the company relaunched a used Falcon 9 rocket that had already launched to the space station in April of last year. That same vehicle landed on one of SpaceX’s autonomous drone ships after launch and then went through months of refurbishment and testing to get ready for spaceflight again. And not only did it launch successfully a second time, but it landed on the drone ship again, too.Read Article >
The mission is an important proof-of-concept for SpaceX, which is trying to demonstrate that it can reliably reuse its orbital rockets again and again. “This represents the culmination of 15 years of work at SpaceX to refly a rocket booster,” CEO Elon Musk said at a press conference following the mission.
Mar 31, 2017
SpaceX had one more victory this evening in its historic reuse of a rocket: it also landed the nose cone on top of the rocket that surrounds the payload to keep it safe, called a fairing. This is a first for SpaceX.Read Article >
You can think of the fairing like a hard protective bubble atop the rocket. So it’s big: five meters — or more than 16 feet — in diameter. Fairing recovery has been a target for SpaceX for at least a year; Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, mentioned fairing retrieval as a goal in April 2016.
Mar 30, 2017
After more than two years of landing its rockets after launch, SpaceX finally sent one of its used Falcon 9s back into space. The rocket took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, this evening, sending a communications satellite into orbit, and then landed on one of SpaceX’s drone ships floating in the Atlantic Ocean. It was round two for this particular rocket, which already launched and landed during a mission in April of last year. But the Falcon 9’s relaunch marks the first time an orbital rocket has launched to space for a second time.Read Article >
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk appeared on the company’s live stream shortly after the landing and spoke about the accomplishment. “It means you can fly and refly an orbital class booster, which is the most expensive part of the rocket. This is going to be, ultimately, a huge revolution in spaceflight,” he said.
Mar 30, 2017
Update March 30th, 5:00PM ET: There’s still an 80 percent chance at favorable weather for tonight’s launch, according a mid-day update from the US Air Force.Read Article >
Elon Musk’s private spaceflight company is going to take another swing at history today: for the first time, SpaceX plans to take a Falcon 9 rocket that successfully launched and landed in April 2016 and try to launch it to space once again. The launch window opens at 6:27PM ET and runs until 8:57PM ET, and SpaceX will live stream the attempt on its YouTube channel. The hosted webcast is embedded above, and a technical webcast (with no narration) can be seen below. Coverage should start about 20 minutes before liftoff.
Mar 28, 2017
On Thursday, SpaceX is set to launch yet another satellite into orbit from the Florida coast — but this mission will be far from routine for the company. The Falcon 9 rocket that SpaceX is using for the launch has already flown before. Around the same time last year, it sent cargo to the International Space Station for NASA, and then came back to Earth to land upright on a floating drone ship at sea. This is the first time that SpaceX will attempt to reuse one of its rockets.Read Article >
It’s a feat that SpaceX has been working toward for more than five years now, and it could be a watershed moment for the aerospace industry. Up until now, practically all rockets that can achieve orbit are either destroyed or go unrecovered after each mission. That means an entirely new rocket — which costs tens to hundreds of millions of dollars to make — has to be built for each launch. But SpaceX’s plan has been to recover its rockets after launch rather than throw them away, so that the vehicles can be used again. That way, the company can save on manufacturing a completely new vehicle, and potentially lower the cost of each mission.
Feb 19, 2017
Rocket launches are always fun to watch, but witnessing SpaceX (or Blue Origin, for that matter) land a rocket is always an awe-inspiring event. This morning, Elon Musk’s company successfully landed its third rocket on the ground after delivering its payload into space, and there was a drone in the sky to capture the moment.Read Article >
It’s a unique vantage point, and SpaceX has released some neat videos in the past of its landings and attempted landings. You can check out landings in a 360-degree view, from onboard cameras, from a plane, or from drones hovering near the landing site. No matter how many angles we see this from, it just doesn’t get old.
Feb 19, 2017
SpaceX pulled off another successful rocket landing this morning — and this time during the day on the coast of Florida. A Falcon 9 rocket successfully touched down at SpaceX’s ground-based landing zone at Cape Canaveral after launching to space. It’s the third time that SpaceX has landed its rocket on solid ground post-launch, but the first time a ground landing has been done during the daytime. The success means that the company now has eight landed Falcon 9s in its possession.Read Article >
The Falcon 9 took off from the Cape at 9:39AM ET, lofting the company’s Dragon cargo capsule into space for NASA. The Dragon is filled with nearly 5,500 pounds of supplies and science experiments for the astronauts on the International Space Station. The Dragon reached its intended orbit, and it will slowly make its way toward the ISS over the next two days before it’s captured by the space station’s robotic arm on Wednesday. The astronauts on board the station will then use the arm to attach the capsule to the Harmony module.
Jan 23, 2017
Over the past year, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 missions have become major online spectacles, mostly because each launch has been followed by an attempt to land the rocket after takeoff. But the landing part of the show will be missing from SpaceX’s next launch, scheduled for January 30th. This mission will be an expendable one, according to a tweet from CEO Elon Musk, meaning the company won’t attempt to land the Falcon 9 post-launch.Read Article >
It’s the first time in a while that SpaceX hasn’t tried a landing. The company has been attempting these “experimental” rocket landings since the start of 2015, and they’re becoming more and more routine. Ever since SpaceX landed its first rocket at the end of December 2015, every single one of the company’s Falcon 9 launches has been followed by an attempt to land the vehicle — either on a floating drone ship at sea or on a ground-based landing zone. And of those 10 attempts, seven have landed successfully.
Jan 18, 2017
Photography is mostly about preparation, and the decisions a photographer makes in turn. But many times it’s also about luck, and there’s no better example of what happens when those two things mix than this incredible photo that SpaceX just published.Read Article >
The photo shows the 14-story-tall first stage of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket moments before it landed on a barge at sea this past weekend. SpaceX has photographed this moment during other landings, and has been publishing high-resolution photos of its launches for a while. But this particular frame got a dramatic boost because the rocket happened to come down right in front of the camera’s view of the Sun.
Jan 14, 2017
Following today’s rocket launch, SpaceX successfully landed its Falcon 9 on the company’s drone ship in the Pacific Ocean. It’s the first landing SpaceX has done since August, and the fifth time one of these vehicles has landed at sea. However, this marks SpaceX’s first landing in the Pacific and the first landing for the drone ship "Just Read The Instructions." The feat brings the total number of recovered SpaceX rockets to seven, as two other Falcon 9 vehicles have successfully touched down on solid ground after a launch.Read Article >
The company has been on a hiatus from spaceflight, after one of its Falcon 9s exploded on a launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida, in September. During a routine fueling procedure, the vehicle suddenly ignited in a giant fireball, which destroyed both the rocket and the satellite it was supposed to carry into space. The accident temporarily halted all Falcon 9 launches — and thus, landings.
Dec 20, 2016
Fans of SpaceX are intimately familiar with the company’s first Falcon 9 rocket landing at Cape Canaveral, Florida a year ago, since SpaceX released numerous images and video showcasing the event in amazing detail. But one thing that we didn’t get to see was how SpaceX CEO Elon Musk reacted to the event.Read Article >
Fortunately, National Geographic was there to document the whirlwind of emotions that Musk went through that night — ranging from high anxiety to jubilant glee. At one point, Musk experienced an intense moment of panic as he watched the launch from outside, thinking that something had gone wrong. But once the Falcon 9 touched down at SpaceX’s landing site, Musk bolted back inside shouting, “It’s standing up!” with the excitement of a child running downstairs on Christmas morning.
Aug 14, 2016
Another one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets successfully landed on a floating drone ship this evening, after the vehicle launched a Japanese communications satellite into orbit. The feat marks the fourth time SpaceX has landed one of its vehicles at sea and the company’s fifth rocket recovery overall this year.Read Article >
Tonight’s landing was particularly challenging for SpaceX, too. The Falcon 9 had to carry its onboard satellite — called JCSAT-16 — into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). It’s a highly elliptical orbit that takes the satellite 20,000 miles out beyond Earth’s surface. Getting to GTO requires a lot of speed and uses up a lot of fuel during take off, more so than getting to lower Earth orbit. That makes things difficult for the rocket landing afterward. Not only is the rocket subjected to "extreme velocities and re-entry heating" during its fall back to Earth, according to SpaceX, but there’s less fuel leftover for the vehicle to reignite its engines and perform the necessary landing maneuvers.
Jul 22, 2016
When SpaceX successfully pulled off its first Falcon 9 rocket landing in December, I knew it was something I had to see for myself someday. I watched through my computer screen as the 14-story vehicle delicately floated down to SpaceX’s landing site at Cape Canaveral, Florida, almost as if gravity was just a minor inconvenience. I was jealous of all the people who got to watch the touch down from the Florida coast, and I made a point to attend the next ground landing.Read Article >
I didn’t get that chance for a while, since nearly all of SpaceX’s rocket landings this year have been at sea, too far away to be seen easily from shore. For the company’s first six launches this year, each vehicle has tried to land on one of the company’s autonomous drone ships floating in the ocean. Landing the rocket this way is sometimes the only option for SpaceX, since the technique requires less fuel than a land landing (which we explain here). The company has had a lot of success with its ocean landings in 2016 — and a few explosive results as well.
Jul 18, 2016
SpaceX has successfully landed another Falcon 9 rocket after launching the vehicle into space this evening from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Shortly after takeoff, the vehicle touched down at SpaceX’s Landing Complex 1 — a ground-based landing site that the company leases at the Cape. It marks the second time SpaceX has pulled off this type of ground landing, and the fifth time SpaceX has recovered one of its rockets post-launch. The feat was accomplished a few minutes before the rocket's second stage successfully put the company's Dragon spacecraft into orbit, where it will rendezvous with the International Space Station later this week.Read Article >
It’s also the first time this year SpaceX has attempted to land one of its rockets on land. For the past six launches, each rocket has tried landing on an autonomous drone ship floating in the ocean. That’s because drone ship landings require a lot less fuel to execute than ground landings (something we explain here). If a rocket has to accelerate super fast during launch — such as those going to high orbits or ones carrying heavy payloads — it uses up a lot of fuel during the initial takeoff. That leaves less fuel for the rocket to land back on Earth, which means a drone ship landing is sometimes the only option. But for this launch, the mission requirements allowed for a successful landing on ground.
Jun 17, 2016Read Article >
Elon Musk has released footage of yesterday's attempt to land a Falcon 9 rocket booster on a drone ship at sea. It was SpaceX's eighth attempted sea landing, and the fifth time that the rocket didn't survive. The payload for this mission — two communications satellites — was successfully delivered to space shortly after the attempted landing.
Jun 15, 2016
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched two satellites into orbit this morning, but the company failed to land the vehicle on a floating drone ship at sea afterward. Prior to the launch, the company said this landing would be difficult, since the rocket was going to a very high orbit known as geostationary transfer orbit, or GTO. Sending satellites to GTO uses up a lot of fuel during the initial ascent, leaving less fuel to pull off the vehicle's return.Read Article >
This Falcon 9 landing caused a bit of drama, since SpaceX wasn't sure at first if the vehicle actually made it down in one piece. Once the rocket landed, it shook the drone ship pretty violently, causing the ship's onboard camera to freeze. The last shots of the vehicle before the camera cut out showed the Falcon 9 standing upright on the ship, but there were also some flames around the bottom.
May 28, 2016
Hours ago, SpaceX landed the first stage of one of its Falcon 9 rockets. It was the third time in a row that the company has landed one of these rocket boosters on a drone ship at sea, and the fourth overall.Read Article >
The landings aren't the only thing SpaceX is getting better at though — just now, the company posted this truly incredible footage of the landing taken from onboard the rocket. At the start, we watch the rocket booster use its metal fins to reposition itself in order to head back to Earth, then we get to see the engines make a controlled burn that slows the rocket's descent. The footage is sped up, so just moments later, the drone ship appears out of nowhere in the ocean while the rocket touches down.
May 27, 2016
SpaceX just successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. It was the third time in a row the company has landed a rocket booster at sea, and the fourth time overall.Read Article >
The landing occurred a few minutes before the second stage of the Falcon 9 delivered the THAICOM-8 satellite to space, where it will make its way to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). GTO is a high-elliptical orbit that is popular for satellites, sitting more than 20,000 miles above the Earth. The 3,100-kilogram satellite will spend 15 years there, helping to improve television and data data signals across Southeast Asia.
May 6, 2016
SpaceX successfully landed its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship at sea after launching it into space early Friday morning. It's the third time the company has recovered the vehicle post-launch, and the second time the rocket has landed intact on the ship. Now, SpaceX has both demonstrated that it can land the Falcon 9 at sea, and that the company can repeat the process.Read Article >
Previously, the company had only been able to recover its Falcon 9 twice post-launch, after making multiple landing attempts over the past year and a half. The first success was in December, when the rocket touched down at a ground-based spaceport in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The second landing occurred in April, but that time the Falcon 9 landed on a floating drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
Apr 29, 2016
SpaceX has just published a stunning 360-degree video of its most recent feat: landing the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship in the ocean. If you ever wanted feel like you're standing under a spaceship that's landing without the awful side effect of being burned to shreds, here's your chance.Read Article >
To be honest, we thought we had seen every angle of this historic moment by this point. We watched it happen live. We watched it in 4K. We saw photos that were taken from just about every conceivable and terrifying angle.
SpaceX made history today when its Falcon 9 rocket epically landed on a drone ship in the ocean. The feat was not only impressive but also felt like one big sigh of relief. SpaceX has been trying to pull of this ocean landing for the past year and a half. I've watched numerous rockets launch and then try to touch down on one of the company's two autonomous ships in the ocean. Some of those tries came close! But all of them ultimately exploded.Read Article >
That's why watching this Falcon 9 finally nail the landing felt like getting one big hug. I don't know about you, but I need to see that SpaceX launch and landing again, yeah? Let's relive it together in GIF form.
SpaceX has finally landed its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship at sea, after launching the vehicle into space this afternoon. It's the first time the company has been able to pull off an ocean landing, after four previous attempts ended in failure. Today's success is a crucial milestone for SpaceX, as it shows the company can land its rockets both on solid ground and in the ocean.Read Article >
This is the second time SpaceX has successfully landed one of its rockets post-launch; the first time was in December, when the company's Falcon 9 rocket touched down at a ground-based landing site in Cape Canaveral, Florida, after putting a satellite into space. Now that SpaceX has demonstrated it can do both types of landings, the company can potentially recover and reuse even more rockets in the future. And that could mean much greater cost savings for SpaceX.
Feb 23, 2016
SpaceX is gearing up for its next Falcon 9 rocket launch this Wednesday, which will send a telecommunications satellite into orbit for the company SES. It will also attempt to land its rocket after launch, but doesn't expect a successful recovery.Read Article >
This mission will also take a different path than originally intended. The launch was supposed to take place in September, but was then repeatedly delayed after one of SpaceX’s rockets exploded on June 28th. Those delays prompted SpaceX to change the flight path for the launch to help get the satellite into its intended orbit much faster, according to SES.
Jan 18, 2016
SpaceX's latest attempt to land its reusable Falcon 9 rocket on a ship in the ocean failed again tonight, but it was a close call — an issue with one of the rocket's leg-locking mechanisms caused it to tip over after landing, bringing the test to a fiery end. Elon Musk just posted a dramatic video to Instagram that shows the incident up close in footage recorded from the platform; it's worth watching as a demonstration of just how precise the landing needs to be.Read Article >
"Falcon lands on droneship, but the lockout collet doesn't latch on one [of] the four legs, causing it to tip over post-landing," Musk says. "[The] root cause may have been ice buildup due to condensation from heavy fog at liftoff."
Jan 17, 2016
SpaceX has failed to land its Falcon 9 rocket on an autonomous drone ship in the Pacific Ocean after launching the vehicle into space. The company originally said that the rocket came in too hard, but after further review of the data, SpaceX concluded that one of the rocket's legs failed to lock, causing the whole thing to tip over. Waves at the landing site today were 12 to 15 feet high, which may have contributed to difficulties in landing. But when asked if the same scenario would have happened on land, Musk answered, "Probably."Read Article >
This marks the third time the company has failed to land the rocket upright on the floating ship; the last two times the company attempted ocean landings, the rockets exploded. SpaceX successfully landed a rocket after a trip to space for the first time in December, but that vehicle had the easier task of landing on solid ground.