SpaceX Plans Upper Stage Rocket Recovery At Falcon Heavy LaunchBy Mark Spencer, UniversityHerald Reporter
History was made last week, when SpaceX landed one of its reusable rockets for the very first time. However, later this year, SpaceX might demonstrate something even more impressive. The company is planning to launch its new heavy-lift rocket, the Falcon Heavy.
SpaceX and Tesla founder, Elon Musk made it more sound more exciting when he sent out a series of Tweets that SpaceX would try to bring the upper stage of the rocket for full reusability. He said that the odds of executing this attempt are low, though he said it might be worth a shot.
The much-anticipated Falcon Heavy is composed of three Falcon 9 cores, made up of 27 Merlin engines; this essentially makes the spacecraft the most powerful rocket in the world. The coming Falcon Heavy test flight would use two boosters that already have been flown. With Musk's pronouncement of trying to recover the upper stage of the rocket during launch, makes it a worthy event to be seen.
The first stage of the rocket, according to Ars Technica, is composed of a single Merlin 1D engine, which is a vacuum-rated iteration of the nine engines used on the first stage of Falcon 9. The second stage of the rocket will deliver its payload into orbit.
Musk said that the odds of retrieval would be low; however, if SpaceX could pull it off, it would complete the company's much-desired loop of reusability by bringing back the first stage, the payload fairing, and the second stage of the launch vehicle, essentially bringing home the entire rocket, to be used for another trip.
What Musk plans to do have never been attempted before, if it works, it could be a game-changer. That alone is reason enough to follow the development of this flight, though it is still not clear how the landing will play out.
The recovery and reuse of the Falcon Heavy's stages would be substantial to SpaceX's Mars plan, according to Tech Crunch, as it may open the gateway to shuttle tons of cargo from Earth to orbit, and eventually be loaded on a spacecraft destined for supply missions to Mars.
Still, more excitement is in store from SpaceX this year. Five previously flown rockets may be sent back up again. Additionally, the manned Dragon capsule will undergo a test flight by the end of this year, and a first manned flight is planned in 2018.
Furthermore, Musk also announced that in about a month from now, new details along with an updated timeline would be presented for the company's Interplanetary Transport System, to send humans to Mars. It might sound too ambitious, but SpaceX has proven critics wrong before.