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SpaceX closed 2015 in spectacular fashion with successful testing of their revolutionary reusable-rocket technology. Mark Dec. 21st as a historic juncture in the theater of space-travel, after Elon Musk’s company, landed the first stage of a spent rocket back on Earth, after delivering multiple primary payloads to orbit. A task previously thought impossible, has become seemingly routine for Elon Musk and his company Space Exploration Technologies.

SpaceX closed 2015 in spectacular fashion with successful testing of their revolutionary reusable-rocket technology. Mark Dec. 21st as a historic juncture in the theater of space-travel, after Elon Musk’s company, landed the first stage of a spent rocket back on Earth, after delivering multiple primary payloads to orbit. A task previously thought impossible, has become seemingly routine for Elon Musk and his company Space Exploration Technologies.

SpaceX closed 2015 in spectacular fashion with successful testing of their revolutionary reusable-rocket technology. Mark Dec. 21st as a historic juncture in the theater of space-travel, after Elon Musk’s company, landed the first stage of a spent rocket back on Earth, after delivering multiple primary payloads to orbit. A task previously thought impossible, has become seemingly routine for Elon Musk and his company Space Exploration Technologies.

Photo credit: SpaceX

“We could not have asked for a more-perfect mission, it was absolutely perfect,” commented Musk after being asked his preliminary thoughts on the launch.  Headquartered in Hawthorne, CA – Elon Musk has fostered what was once a fledgling private launch-provider into an innovative aerospace industry employing over 4,000 people nationwide.

The launch occurred at 8:29 pm eastern, and within the hour the first stage of the rocket separated, performed re-entry burns, stabilizing maneuvers, then landed perfectly on a pad named “LZ-1” at the Kennedy Space Center. This is noted as a critical launch for SpaceX – labeled as a “Return to flight” since their last International Space Station resupply mission suffered a post-launch failure during the CRS-7 (Commercial Resupply Services) mission.

SpaceX utilized a 224 foot tall Falcon 9 rocket, which housed 11 individual satellites, destined for particular paths in orbit. Each OrbComm-contracted satellite was successfully deployed through the course of the mission, and have so far all reported back nominally.

The long-term plan is to repair and reuse these rockets, to reduce overall cost, and turn-around time, instead of building a new engine from scratch. When speaking directly to Elon Musk, he cited that “…It’s somewhere in the order of a 100-fold reduction in marginal costs – you still have your fixed costs…” It will make getting cargo to space a more efficient, cheaper, and more common occurrence, especially for those with smaller budgets.  

Current competitor rocket models are designed to be 100% disposable after each launch – fated to burn up in orbit, splashdown in vacant expanses of ocean, or Earth.

SpaceX has since brought the rocket in for inspecting, and refiring. Musk commented on twitter: “Conducted hold-down firing of returned Falcon rocket. Data looks good overall, but engine 9 showed thrust fluctuations.” He went on to post, “Maybe some debris ingestion. Engine data looks okay. Will borescope tonight. This is one of the outer engines.”

Currently, SpaceX has 8 total successful landings, 3 on land, 5 at sea – though this number will continue to rise as the months’ progress.

SpaceX employs two separate autonomous spaceport drone ships for water landings, as well as designated facilities within the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fl. Thus far, no water landings have resulted in success. Though most have come very near to achieving what is noted as the rocket’s secondary objective – landing after payload delivery, even despite less-than-favorable sea-conditions.

2017 will see multiple landing attempts by both SpaceX and Blue Origins, a recent player in the rocketry game, owned by billionaire Amazon-owner, Jeff Bezos  -our NASA Correspondent, Thaddeus Cesari will continue to provide updates as they develop through the year.

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