LESS WASTE MAKES SPACE TRAVEL

HWM (Malaysia) - - IMPACT - Li­uHongzuoandKo­hWanzi

by Un­til last De­cem­ber, rock­ets used for space ex­plo­ration were lim­ited to a sin­gle launch – the rocket’s booster de­taches from the main unit, fall­ing back to Earth as ex­pen­sive junk. A good anal­ogy would be avi­a­tion, where this break­through is the equiv­a­lent of find­ing out aero­planes do not nec­es­sar­ily need to be scrapped af­ter ev­ery flight.

Space Ex­plo­ration Tech­nolo­gies Cor­po­ra­tion (more fondly known as SpaceX) changed this when the Fal­con 9 rocket man­aged to de­liver satel­lites and then re-en­tered Earth with a soft land­ing. This al­lows the Fal­con 9 to be reused, re­fu­eled and launched again, cut­ting down on ma­te­rial cost. This also im­plies how fur­ther space travel is pos­si­ble – in­stead of build­ing an­other space­craft for a re­turn trip, a rocket could travel to Mars, do the need­ful, and sim­ply re­fuel for the jour­ney back on a Mars out­post. SpaceX claims that the first stage rocket (which is the booster in ques­tion) ac­count for 75 per­cent of the en­tire cost of a rocket launch. More pre­cisely, the Fal­con 9 ex­er­cise costs any­where from US$60 mil­lion to US$90 mil­lion, and a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of that cost can be saved for fu­ture at­tempts.

Right now, Elon Musk – CEO of SpaceX – says that they are cur­rently re­search­ing on ways to re­use the booster por­tion of the Fal­con 9 pro­ject. The landed rocket will be taken apart for re­search, though it will be a few years be­fore more can be said about re­us­able space­craft.

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