LESS WASTE MAKES SPACE TRAVEL
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.