As the capsule separates from the first stage rocket, the second stage booster takes over and sends Dragon into orbit around the Earth to rendezvous with it’s target a few hours from now. At this point the mission is a complete success from NASA’s perspective, but to Elon Musk and the rest of the SpaceX team, the real challenge is just beginning. They have to land that first stage rocket on a 300 x 170 foot barge in the vast ocean, or risk losing millions of dollars in their investment. Here’s how it went.
Okay not so well, but arguably better than the last attempt. The April 14th launch of CRX-6 to the International Space Station (ISS) was the sixth SpaceX Dragon capsule resupply mission contracted by NASA, and it was a complete success. The second goal was a successful landing of the Falcon rocket on the floating ocean platform, marking the first ever landing of a spent rocket and opening the door for reusable rocket technology with a huge cost savings.
But why waste embarrassment with a rocket explosion? Why tell anyone? It’s great publicity and very cool footage. It gets people excited about spaceflight again. Elon Musk has always been candid about failures, and that’s what makes him so successful. We need people like him helping the world. It earns him respect and makes him appear honest. This technology is coming one way or another. It’s a stepping stone to what we need in order to go to Mars. Think about airplanes; Imagine having to rebuild a plane every time the plane flew. How much money would that cost and would it even be worth it to fly commercially? It would cost far too much money for each ticket. I would bet long-distance communication would be far beyond what it is now, but long-distance travel would be pretty much out of the question.
I did an interview on CTV Toronto about the flight a day before it launched. Although I was hopeful for a successful landing, it seems there are still a few tweaks to work out. We are reaching a new era of spaceflight, and it’s only just beginning. This part of history will be talked about for decades as the beginning of modern spaceflight, and when private industry commercialized it. We are living it.