Test-firing the Falcon 9 Reusable prototype
Behold, a rocket booster which won’t just hurl humanity into space, it’ll come back and ask for more. The Falcon 9R is designed to punch through the sky then kiss it better with rocket fuel, decelerating on descent until it lands neatly back on the original launch pad, ready for refuelling and the next cargo of coolness. Which means that SpaceX is finally building Thunderbird 3.
The best bit is how it’ll be tested by destruction. Future Falcon 9 launches will test the landing system in action, completing their space-business before roaring back to Earth to see what happens. The test landings will be in the most uninhabited bits of water they can find, as SpaceX candidly expect all kinds of explosive education in how not to land before getting it right.
That’s the human race in college – learning how to do things right by making all the awesomely fun mistakes first. Because we’ve finally grown up enough to start thinking about leaving home. People talk about losing the stars, but back in the sixties we were heroically reaching far beyond our grasp. Now the technology is so accessible there’s an online form to fill for lofting off the Earth.
Putting things in orbit used to need a Presidential decree. Now it needs a printer. We’re just getting started.