back to article SpaceX blasts back into the rocket trucking business

Elon Musk's rocket trucking business, SpaceX, is rolling on the celestial highway again after successfully launching a Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket, then landing the rocket's first stage back on terra firma. The mission marks a second successful return to space (the first being this one) after a satellite launch …

  1. ratfox Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Landing again. And making it look easy.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Almost too easy. :) I both want and dread the day where the launches and successful landings are commonplace and maybe garner a small mention in the press. This stuff is a marvel and needs to be savored (savoured?) while we can.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Launches already are routine and garner no mention in the press

        There are rockets launching every month from Kourou, wherever the Russian launches go from and other places. They never get press unless they blow up, and sometimes not even then. The only reason Musk is is because they're landing the rockets, which is new for now.

        Once they have the bugs worked out of the software, landing the rockets is a solved problem and landing the rockets won't garner a mention on the news any longer as they'll be just like any other launch as far as the public is concerned.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Launches already are routine and garner no mention in the press

          Yeah... I know. We've had that happen here with the Space Shuttle and other rockets. No mentions unless it's something terrible. Just makes me sad. But it also tells us they are reliable. How many people go running outside to see an airplane?

          1. Holtsmark
            Headmaster

            Re: Launches already are routine and garner no mention in the press

            I do :)

            Now, my work is located at the end of taxiway Hotel, and it involves making some quite interesting flying hardware. In my spare time I fly model aircraft, and I like to read aviation themed books. This may not be the norm..

            ..But doing this, I have seen a formation of six A10s performing low-passes in front of the tower, 747s performing touch and go's in rainy conditions (big wingtip vortices visible), an AN225 landing, and later taking off, a Polikarpov I-16 (Rata) doing it's thing, and a Porsche 918 Spyder racing a Zivko Edge 540 V3 while the camera helicopter performed pirouettes in order to capture everything (just to mention some highlights).

            https://youtu.be/arU8_YNPT6k

            1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: Launches already are routine and garner no mention in the press

              @Holtsmark

              I do :)

              +1

          2. DougS Silver badge

            Re: Launches already are routine and garner no mention in the press

            No one goes running outside to see an airplane, but they still show up at airshows to see rare planes or stunts. People will still show up to watch rocket launches in person, but they won't be news.

          3. Pedigree-Pete
            Pint

            Re: Launches already are routine and garner no mention in the press

            "How many people go running out to see an aeroplane".....

            They used to, around my way when Concorde went out of Heathrow. Even the locals! PP

            Icon. I'm not bloody waiting for Friday.

        2. Nik 2

          Re: Launches already are routine and garner no mention in the press

          After a few successful landings, I think that coverage of SpaceX landings was dropping until the RUD event last year. Re-use and human tests/flights are the next big event.

          Shame that the Mars shot was postponed though.

    2. Mike Richards Silver badge

      It's like the 1950s all over again

      In the 50's rockets were always going to land tail first - look at Tintin's rocket to the Moon or Destination Moon. Even Apollo toyed with trying to put a rocket down in their 'direct ascent' plans as did the Soviets with the LK-700.

      Then we laughed that this was wildly impractical, it was going to be nearly impossible to land something that fragile on its end - hell even Thunderbird 1 landed horizontally! So we ended up with splashdowns, disposable rockets and the LM before deciding that wings were really the way forward.

      And now SpaceX is landing these things almost routinely.

      But we will only live in the future when someone builds and flies a Space 1999 Eagle.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: It's like the 1950s all over again @Mike Richards

        I like all the references, but you're wrong about Thunderbird 1 (and Thunderbird 3).

        They both land tail first back at Tracy Island, and what's even cleverer, they managed to suck in the smoke!

        But that's easy when you run the film backwards, a trick AP Films did more often than I would have wished. I guess that it's easier to pull a model than let gravity have it's way when trying to lower it.

        I could probably dig out the names of the episodes when both were seen, but then I am a bit of a Gerry Anderson geek!

        I was really surprised when I saw the original Falcon take off, hover and landing tests about how much it looked like a AP films sequence!

        The Thunderbirds effect/sequence I was most terrified and then later impressed with was in the episode "Terror in New York City", where Thunderbird 2 had to make an emergency landing after being attacked by USN Sentinel (bloody Yanks!) That was some serious special effects and model making, even by today's standards. I remember being horror-struck when I saw it as a very impressionable young child in the 1960's.

        I wonder whether the model makers had any qualms about dirtying up on of their frequently used models in order to film the sequence. If any of them read here, I would love to know.

        1. JCitizen
          Thumb Up

          Re: It's like the 1950s all over again @Mike Richards

          I was a big Thunderbirds fan as a kid too! Funny though - I used to make fun of the rocket movies from the 1930s Flash Gordon serials. Now I have to eat quiche!!

        2. Mike Richards Silver badge

          Re: It's like the 1950s all over again @Mike Richards

          I bow to your superior Century 21 knowledge. I always wondered how they got Thunderbird 1 back under the swimming pool, but reckoned they kept a whacking great crane out the back.

          I'm with you on wanting to know more how these amazing programmes were put together. Some of them still look glorious today and they inspired so much cool stuff - how many British engineers and scientists got into their subjects because of Gerry Anderson? How many movies were only made possible by their expertise - 2001, Alien, Empire Strikes Bank? The problem with the current future is that it's not nearly as exciting and sleek as we were promised (although, to be fair, it seems a lot less fragile and less likely to blow up).

          Currently I'm trying to resist the pull of a 22" long Eagle model that's available for an eyewatering sum of money. I don't know where I'd put it, or even if I could make and paint it without at least one trip to casualty, but it is *the* Gerry Anderson creation of my childhood - elegant, functional and prone to exploding at inopportune moments...

    3. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      Alert

      So, when are they going to reuse a booster?

      That's the real proof that landing boosters has value.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So, when are they going to reuse a booster?

        The first reuse flight is for SES-10. Currently this should launch next month.

        Actually it won't prove that landing boosters has value: it is just a prototype that shows you can. The real value preposition comes with the final iteration of the Falcon 9 design (Block 5) later this year. This design is "tweaked" with what has been learnt from the landed prototypes to make them cheap, safe and easy to reuse.

        The SpaceX balance sheet will be the proof that landing boosters has value.

  2. MrT

    Top-down rocket-eye view...

    ... of the landing is here...

  3. Bubba Von Braun

    Its never easy

    The hard part is now reuse, Falcon 9 and Dragon, reuse will be down to how much life they build into the components now. In the past its a shorter life so you engineer it accordingly given your dropping it in the Atlantic.. now its get it back, refurbish and reuse so you can design for a longer service life.

    A similar evolution occurred with Jet engines, I will be watching closely the Dragon reuse alter this year, and the re-flight of a Falcon 9 stage, should be interesting to see.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: re-use

      Hopefully, in late March we can watch the stage 1 that launched CRS-8 launch SES-10. The Falcon Heavy Demo is currently pencilled in for late May: three landings for the cost of 1.5.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Its never easy

      > "A similar evolution occurred with Jet engines..."

      When were jet engines ever built for one use and then thrown away?

      1. Esme

        Re: Its never easy

        they weren't, but the Jumo 004's that powered Me262's had a very short time operational life before servicing was required, depending on how well the components had been made (and what with) and how the engine had been used by the pilot. Some didn't last ten hours before needing a service, but IIRC a few lasted 30-40 hours of flying before needing servicing.

  4. MD Rackham

    Credit where credit is due

    This is the second launch since the September kaboom. The first was a launch for Iridium from Vandenberg.

    It's the first from Canaveral (actually KSC this time), the first from LC 39A, and the first ISS resupply mission since then. Maybe that's what you were thinking of?

    1. Bill B

      Re: Credit where credit is due

      Yeah I noticed that. Maybe the OP isn't a big fan of SpaceX and doesn't follow EVERY launch

    2. A K Stiles
      Coat

      Re: Credit where credit is due

      It's the first from Canaveral (actually KSC this time)

      Took me a moment of "Kerbal Space Centre?, Doh!"

  5. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Near miss?

    At T+00:06:30 stage 1 goes past something visible on its downward pointing camera. Anyone know what is was?

    1. MrT

      Re: Near miss?

      Not sure - just watching the post-launch news conference to see if it gets mentioned. At that altitude it's probably something that came off as part of the staging - it's just before the re-entry burn that puts the booster on a different trajectory.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Near miss?

      That would be the Dragon 1 capsule nose being discarded to uncover the docking port

      It's hinged on the Dragon 2 so soon there will no longer be a need to jettison it.

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Go

    Good return to flight from the Cape.

    But I'll be looking for the first flight of a reused first stage.

    More specifically what SX will charge for it.

    Space won't become truly viable till launch prices drop at least 10x. Nothing else is really going to do it.

    Let's see how much SX will cut it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good return to flight from the Cape.

      SpaceX are in the unusual position of already being easily the cheapest provider. Whilst they will pass "some" of the savings on to their customers to give them incentive them to fly with "used" rockets, reuse is more likely to do fantastic things to the SpaceX profit margins. Prices will drop when they have competition, but that competition will have a hard struggle as by the time it materializes SpaceX will be flying from 4 launch pads with a "stock" of first stages ready to fly and working with lead times in months instead of years.

  7. Steve Todd

    Why does El Reg insist

    On giving the wrong reason for the failure? It failed because of creases in the pressure vessels that caused problems when they deliberately used supercooled helium, not because the helium was too cold. The long term fix is in the design and manufacture of the COPVs, not changing the helium temperature.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why does El Reg insist

      No, no, no, you're both wrong, as I have been telling you before.

      It failed because it had a Facebook satellite as payload. As long as they don't make that mistake again they'll be fine. My theory is that Facebook have indeed managed to make a working AI, and it always commits suicide as soon as it realises who it'll be working for.

      Choosing between a spectacular, televised death or floating up there all alone while listening to the inane babble of a billion airheads - yeah, I wouldn't call that a choice either.

      (Earth shattering) KABOOM!

      :)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My thought about the distant view landing was "bullseye!". Although at the same time it did look rather like a rather good CGI sequence. Something to do with the lack of other movement in the picture.

  9. cray74

    Clouds, feh

    A very old time experience: I couldn't see the launch*, only hear it like I was listening to the radio. The low cloud deck completely blocked the view. A few minutes after launch the long rumble of takeoff reached the house, and then a few minutes later some jerk ran up and kicked the garage door twice: the sonic boom of the first stage dropping in for landing.

    Cured the cat's constipation right up.

    **Except on TV, webcast, and YouTube, but I'm still holding a grudge against the clouds.

  10. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Mushroom

    I like trucking

    How about a rocket/space version of this?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9lmCpIzhFo

  11. Big_Boomer

    Routine

    I love watching that video. Yes it will become routine but that doesn't mean it's not cool. It's another step in getting our eggs out of the one basket. Well done to all involved.

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