SpaceX Rocket Landing: Dawn Of New Space Age? - InformationWeek
IoT
IoT
IT Life
News
12/23/2015
10:05 AM
50%
50%

SpaceX Rocket Landing: Dawn Of New Space Age?

This week, SpaceX founder Elon Musk achieved part of his goal of bringing spaceflight a little closer to home with the successful landing of the Falcon 9 rocket. Are we nearing the dawn of a new space age?

NASA's 10 Best Images Of 2015
NASA's 10 Best Images Of 2015
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

With the celebratory exclamation "Welcome back, baby!" SpaceX founder Elon Musk took space travel one step farther into the future this week with the successful landing of its Falcon 9 rocket -- the first such feat ever achieved.

The majority of the launch cost comes from building the rocket, which flies only once. Compare that to a commercial airliner -- each new plane costs about the same as Falcon 9, but can fly multiple times per day, and conduct tens of thousands of flights over its lifetime.

While most rockets are designed to burn up on reentry, SpaceX rockets are designed not only to withstand reentry, but also to return to the launch pad or ocean landing site for a vertical landing.

(Image: SpaceX)

(Image: SpaceX)

"If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred," Musk, who is also the CEO of Tesla Motors, wrote on the SpaceX website. "A fully reusable vehicle has never been done before. That really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionize access to space."

The Dec. 21 video of the successful landing shows a raucous crowd celebrating outside the control room at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, as the Falcon 9 rocket settles upright on the landing pad.

The ORBCOMM-2 mission delivered 11 satellites to low-Earth orbit for ORBCOMM, a global provider of machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

The mission marked SpaceX's first attempt to land a first stage on land, though the landing of the first stage was considered a secondary test objective.

The objective of reusable rockets is to lower the across-the-board costs for space flight, which could result a series of developments including new types of space ventures, including commercial flights and space tourism.

"With lower costs and competition, prices could fall, stimulating demand for more access to space," Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, said in an interview with NBC News. "The next step is to see how much it costs and how long it takes to refurbish the recovered stage and fly it again."

Farther in the future, these types of reusable rocket technologies could help drive down costs low enough to make a mission to Mars -- something Musk has stressed the importance of -- a more financially feasible goal.

[Read more about SpaceX.]

"This is a critical step along the way toward being able to establish a city on Mars," Musk told reporters following the landing. "That's what all this is about."

In an interview with Ars Technica, Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, an advocate of commercial human spaceflight, said the successful landing upon reentry will have broad implications for the space flight industry.

"It makes you rethink the way we do business," Stallmer said "That's the bottom line. Is there a better way to do spaceflight? It used to be if, or when, we could reuse rockets. But now we've crossed off the 'if,' and the 'when.' It changes the way the industry is going to do business."

Musk is not the only tech mogul who is looking to harness the power of spaceflight. In September, Amazon's Jess Bezos announced Blue Origin, his plan to manufacture and launch rockets in Florida.

**Elite 100 2016: DEADLINE EXTENDED TO JAN. 15, 2016** There's still time to be a part of the prestigious InformationWeek Elite 100! Submit your company's application by Jan. 15, 2016. You'll find instructions and a submission form here: InformationWeek's Elite 100 2016.

Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for InformationWeek. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin. View Full Bio

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
TroyASr
50%
50%
TroyASr,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/29/2015 | 1:43:59 PM
Re: What shape was it in?
I was at the after-party in Cape Canaveral when Elon returned from inspecting the landed rocket. He told us "it is in such good shape, we could re-fuel her and send her up again!" So very little "re-furb" would be required - that was the whole goal.

The next day, however, Elon told reporters that he probably will NOT re-launch the Falcon 9, only because of its "historical signifigance." He probably wants to save her for a museum etc.
yalanand
50%
50%
yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
12/27/2015 | 7:31:00 AM
Re: What shape was it in?
@Stratustician: I believe SpaceX would be the pioneer in space tourism because of the "don't give up" attitude and guidance of Elon Musk. The man had invested in SpaceX even before investing in Tesla. I have to say his sense of predicting the future is as sharp as other similarly successful entrepreneurs.
yalanand
50%
50%
yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
12/27/2015 | 7:28:11 AM
Re: Congratulations to Mr. Musk
Doesn't Virgin airlines have a space tourism side as well? I heard they were making space crafts for the rich 10% of this world.
yalanand
50%
50%
yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
12/27/2015 | 7:26:42 AM
Re: Congratulations to Mr. Musk
@Gary El: Elon is one of my current favourite entrepreneurs mostly because he does what he says. SpaceX made history and the face of space exploration would change in the coming 5 years or so.
Brian.Dean
50%
50%
Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
12/26/2015 | 9:22:20 PM
Re: What shape was it in?
Good point. Economics is required to make history on a budget. Deploying 11 satellites for specific M2M communication is a massive mission in its own right. If we take into consideration that there are around 1,100 working satellites in space at the moment then, 11 additional satellites is a major addition. As a bonus, the landing will enable future deployments to cost less.

I wonder if ORBCOMM has provided additional information about the capabilities that the new satellite fleet will enable.
Broadway0474
50%
50%
Broadway0474,
User Rank: Ninja
12/25/2015 | 10:50:51 PM
Re: Congratulations to Mr. Musk
If space tourism is what pays the bills for what Musk is really after --- space colonization --- then let's hope it goes down to a cost where most people in the top 1 to 10 percent of America can take a spin. That would subsidize many of the rest of us when we need to find a new home in the galaxy after Earth goes to hell.
Gary_EL
50%
50%
Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
12/25/2015 | 3:59:09 AM
Re: Congratulations to Mr. Musk
Private customers, as yet, have no non-trivial way to make all that much money in space, and so the main customer has to remain the gov't and the military for now. But, what if Musk is even close to right and the cost of shipping a pound of cargo into space goes down by anything close to a factor of a hundred? Then who knows what might be possible!
MatthewO028
50%
50%
MatthewO028,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/24/2015 | 6:27:28 PM
SpaceX Rocket landing
The cheering crowd was SpaceX Employees at their Hawthorne, California facility, not the Cape.
Whoopty
50%
50%
Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
12/24/2015 | 11:05:27 AM
Re: Congratulations to Mr. Musk
That's where things like Blue Origin can really help. While the Amazon rocket can take people to the edge of 'space' really cheaply, it will allow more people to try it and get a buzz for going into space. Give it a few years, with successful re-uses of the Falcon 9 under its belt, and Space X will be able to offer trips up for less than a million dollars. 
jries921
50%
50%
jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
12/24/2015 | 10:21:21 AM
Congratulations to Mr. Musk
If commercial space travel is ever to be more than a libertarian fantasy, then these are the sorts of experiments that need to succeed.

But he he will also need to round up some real live private customers instead of relying on government contracts.
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
2017 State of IT Report
2017 State of IT Report
In today's technology-driven world, "innovation" has become a basic expectation. IT leaders are tasked with making technical magic, improving customer experience, and boosting the bottom line -- yet often without any increase to the IT budget. How are organizations striking the balance between new initiatives and cost control? Download our report to learn about the biggest challenges and how savvy IT executives are overcoming them.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Top IT Trends for 2018
As we enter a new year of technology planning, find out about the hot technologies organizations are using to advance their businesses and where the experts say IT is heading.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll