Can SpaceX make commercial rockets more affordable?
How easy is it to reverse park a rocket? That’s the challenge engineers from private US space launch company SpaceX set themselves today (the launch was cancelled earlier this week due to a technical problem).
It starts with a routine mission to resupply the International Space Station with their Falcon 9 rocket. But this morning they will attempt to land the main “first stage” of the rocket booster on a platform in the Atlantic ocean.
If they can pull it off it will be a big step towards making commercial rocket launches more affordable. It will also give SpaceX a major boost over its competitors.
The Falcon 9 first stage is equipped with an additional motor to slow its descent as it falls back to earth – held in a horizontal position by gyroscopes. Before it touches down, tripod-like legs will spring our of the rocket’s tail to allow it to land.
SpaceX have demonstrated the technology hovering over the ocean, but have not attempted a targeted landing.
“The odds of success are not great – perhaps 50 per cent at best,” the company said on its website.
Follow @TomClarkeC4 on Twitter