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Self Landing Rocket Boosters

April 28, 2019

self landing rocket booster falcon heavy

Against all odds.

On April 11 2019, SpaceX’s most powerful rocket the Falcon Heavy successfully deployed the Arabsat-6A sending a communications satellite for Saudi Arabia to an orbit above earth. However, the most exciting fact was that it managed to land all 3 of its rocket boosters back on planet earth. 

The Falcon Heavy design consists of a container which holds the cargo and three Falcon 9 rocket boosters attached to it capable of providing more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff allowing it to drop of its payload into a low earth orbit. 

In traditional space launches by NASA in the past, booster rockets were usually discarded into space but Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder was thinking of something different. What if we could land the rocket boosters back on earth? Wouldn’t that dramatically reduce the cost of space transport? 

To accomplish this they built foldable heat-resistant wings called “grid fins” needed for steering the rocket boosters as it plummets from the edge of space through Earth’s atmosphere, “cold-gas thrusters” are then used to flip the rocket around as it begins its journey back to Earth, and strong but lightweight carbon fiber "landing legs” that deploy as it approaches touchdown. All of these are totally automated once the rocket is launched—and are reacting and adjusting their behavior based on incoming, real-time data.

Our thoughts:

Such ideas of self landing rockets and commercial space flight were deemed almost impossible and unfeasible in the past. Even American astronauts such as Neil Armstrong came out to congress to caution against it. That however didn’t stop Musk and his SpaceX team from continuing pushing the boundaries and achieving the unthinkable success they have today. Sometimes it is that sheer grit, persistence and going forward despite all the naysayers that will allow you to turn the impossible into the possible.

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falcon heavy launch

falcon heavy launch

 

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