On Monday night, the first stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket landed safely at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
With the third attempt, which turned out to be successful, the private company SpaceX was able to return to Earth the first stage of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle intact. It happened on December 21, and this is the first rocket in history that managed to return from near-earth orbit. (Earlier, Blue Origin, headed by Jeff Bezos, was also able to return its rocket to Earth, but the return came from a suborbital level).
The launch of the Falcon 9 rocket occurred on December 21 at 20:29 local time from the USAF station at Cape Canaveral. She was supposed to put 11 Orbcomm satellites into orbit. The two-stage rocket went into Earth orbit, after which the first stage separated and returned to Cape Canaveral in an upright position.
The members of the Flight Control team in Hawthorne, California burst into applause when the first stage appeared in the visibility zone of the landing pad - and literally went crazy with joy when they saw how in Landing Zone 1, the first stage of the launch vehicle slows down and smoothly lands. Previously, this site was used by the US Air Force for testing missiles. Earlier, SpaceX developers have already made two attempts to return the stages of launch vehicles. In both cases, a floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean was used, located at a great distance from the coast. However, in both attempts - in January and April 2015 - the first steps, though they managed to return to Earth, but they hit the edge of the platform with such force that their repeated use was simply impossible.
Today’s success is very significant for SpaceX, which is committed to the reusable use of rockets, which will make space exploration more accessible. As the founder and CEO of SpaceX Elon Musk said, this technology can reduce the cost of space flight by 100 times, and hence the opportunity to establish colonies on Mars will become more economically accessible.
In fact, the colonization of Mars is not the priority dream of Elon Musk; He founded SpaceX in 2002 primarily to help mankind become an interplanetary view, and he himself repeatedly spoke about this.
After an unsuccessful launch on June 28, when the rocket exploded in the air within three minutes after the launch, thus disrupting the delivery of cargo to the NASA International Space Station, this attempt was the first. SpaceX has entered into a contract worth $ 1.6 billion to carry out 12 such missions using Falcon 9 and Dragon capsules. The failure in June, most likely, was caused by a failure of one of the steel partitions of the upper stage. Elon Musk said then that they would test each of the hundreds of such partitions on Falcon 9.
According to Elon Musk, on Falcon 9 after the incident, among other things, the electronics responsible for the separation of modules were also updated.
"I think this rocket is significantly better than the last one," he said on December 15 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Society in San Francisco.
Initially, the launch was scheduled for Sunday night (December 20), but analysis showed that delaying the start to December 21 would increase the chances of a successful landing by 10 percent.
All 11 satellites launched with the help of Falcon 9, have successfully begun to work on the Orbcomm satellite network in near-earth orbit.