History was made last night.
A rocket launched, hit the space, released its satellites, and then it landed back — they say. As mere as this may sound for 2015, this was a phenomenal achievement in rocket science that revolutionized the aerospace industry.
Here is how:
Commissioned to launch a new satellite constellation for Orbcomm, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launched yesterday evening from Cape Canaveral, successfully deploying 11 satellites into their designated orbit as scheduled. When considered just that, it doesn’t sound very novel. The extraordinary part came not later but before these deployments when the first stage of Falcon 9 rocket successfully separated and landed back on Earth — gracefully like a swan.
The first stage of a rocket is the tall bottom part. It is the largest body that contains propellant tanks and nearly a dozen rocket engines. It effectively launches the rocket from the bottom up. It is a crucial part of a multi-stage rocket, however it goes to waste, crushing and exploding back into ocean after separation –- or as it was up until yesterday. December 21, 2015 marks in history as the day when Orbcomm-2 mission proved that this hefty and expensive part of the rocket can be preserved after a mission, therefore, potentially, can be reused for future missions.
Now this is huge. We are talking about a piece of engineered equipment that costs around $60 million to build with the propellant alone costing about $200K. Ability to reuse the first stage allows the R&D effort to amortize itself and potentially lead to greater profits, while providing the aerospace industry with more economical flexibility. Cost reduction has been a major challenge in the aerospace industry so far causing a rather conservative and incumbent business model. Yesterday’s Orbcomm-2 mission took a first giant step towards overcoming this hurdle, bringing sustainability to the table and consequently making a significant economical shift.
A ticket to Mars…
Reusability of rockets brings the spotlight to space travel, yet it certainly means more than a ticket to Mars. Improved rocket sustainability appeals to the life we know today — the one that doesn’t include casual interplanetary wanderlust (not just yet).
Let’s take a closer look at what has been in front of us all along:
Orbcomm-2, a commercial satellite launch mission.
While the landing made a breakthrough, Falcon 9 had a commercial mission to launch a constellation of Orbcomm satellites dedicated to provide coverage for M2M and IoT communications. The successful deployment of Orbcomm-2 mission got us a little closer to self-driving cars, smart cities, smart transportation systems, and eHealth while further advancing the connectivity for consumer electronics, i.e. smartphones, tablets, and wearable devices.
The successful landing of the Falcon 9 first stage adds further speed and feasibility into M2M and IoT communications. The lower cost of a rocket launch means more commercial satellite missions whether for launch or check-up. This economical shift in rocket launch missions claims a far more special place for satellite’s in the mobile connectivity landscape, co-populated by fiber and broadband among others.
Such disruption is bound to make a ripple effect across industries. Imagining more rocket launches for less capital and less heavy-lifting, I wonder if we will even call them missions anymore.
Is it possible ?
Space X and its Orbcomm-2 mission attracted attention from all over the world as it took a live-broadcasted public shot at proving possible for what was claimed to be otherwise by a variety of space agencies around the world. It landed the first stage of an orbital rocket on December 21, 2015 at 8:45 pm EST.
Speaking of possible, this brings us back to my personal story about my plans to host my birthday party at Mars when I was about 4 years old. Dreaming about the details about how I would welcome my guests into the red planet, I was crushed when I found out it wasn’t feasible at that moment.
After all, it seems that it’s going to be possible as well. As it stands now, 500K per head. You’re coming ?
Congrats to Space X for their great achievement in bringing us closer with each other and with the space outside our world.
And Elon Musk, bitten by the disruption bug, does it again.
More information about Falcon 9, Space X and Orbcomm available in the links below.
ORBCOMM's multiple M2M networks, devices and applications enable tracking and global delivery of business critical…www.orbcomm.com
SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft..www.spacex.com