SpaceX launches two rockets in a span of three days

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Falcon Heavy rockets during a demo presentation. (Official SpaceX Photos/Flickr Creative Commons)

The company SpaceX recently launched a rocket on March 30, but the launch did not go as planned when the $6 million nose cone, fell back to Earth, plummeting into the ocean at high velocity.

During the liftoff of the rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, there were no initial disturbances or problems, and the primary mission of launching 10 communications and satellites into orbit was successful.

The rocket’s nose cone functions as a shield for the satellites when it launches. Once the rocket launches into space, the nose cone breaks into two pieces, launches the satellites then falls away back to Earth, usually landing in the ocean.

The nose cone was meant to be caught as it fell and salvaged for reuse, but the boat sent to catch the cone, called “Mr. Steven,” missed its mark.

SpaceX and founder Elon Musk, who spent $6 million on the nose cone alone, desperately want to recover it rather than forget about the rocket.

“(If) you had $6 million in cash on a pallet flying through the air, and it’s going to smash into the ocean, would you try to recover it? Yes. Yes, you would,” Musk said.

SpaceX has been trying to salvage the portions of the 43-foot-long nose cone. It had hoped that the landing of the nose cone would be much softer so that it could be reused, but water damages the infrastructure of the nose cone when it lands.

Although a nose cone has never been recovered or reused, Musk is ready to make adjustments and run more tests. He hopes that the adjustments to the nose cone, will make performance much better. Shortly after his announcement, another rocket was launched on April 2, a previously flown Falcon 9, to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

Is relying on a previously flown rocket a good idea? SpaceX forwent the usual landing process of the Falcon 9 in order to collect more data on the rocket during its landing into the ocean.

Reusing a rocket may prove advantageous, as further tests can be done on the rocket to ensure stability and longer re-runs. SpaceX is efficiently making use of the tools they already have. The reuse of such technology may prove beneficial, as it could make sending greater amounts of necessary items to the International Space Station cheaper.

As SpaceX redevelops its technologies, it will continue to work “through its inventory of recovered Falcon 9 rockets.” This will allow them to test procedures over and over again until they get it right.

Reusing the rocket will save SpaceX money. Although they may spend money to make improvements on the rocket, their idea of launching Falcon 9 again allows it to save money on rocket design. Instead, it can use the money to better develop their rocket over time, leading to more cost-effective measures.

The improvements that SpaceX will make will surely allow it to assist the International Space Station to a greater degree. One of the important changes SpaceX must make is to use solid-fuel engines. However, this would be harder to control, which is why they are generally not used. Although this is the case, it is necessary for SpaceX to come up with a cheaper alternative, in addition to reusing models, to ensure that it gets the best possible results.


Anusha Kumar is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at anusha.kumar@uconn.edu.

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