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  • Private space flight has had kind of a bad year between the failure of Orbital Sciences cargo rocket in Virginia

  • And the tragic loss of SpaceShip 2's pilot Michael Alsbury.

  • But leave it to our not so secret braincrush Elon Musk

  • The head of SpaceX to take private space exploration to a whole new level

  • The new level in this case being the surface of the ocean.

  • On Friday, December 19th, 2014, SpaceX will launch one of it's Falcon 9 rockets into space

  • Loaded with more than fifteen hundred kilograms of supplies and experiments for the International Space Station

  • But after the first few minutes of flight, instead of just crashing back to earth

  • like it usually does, the rocket's first stage will gently touch down on a platform

  • floating in the Atlantic Ocean.

  • At least, that's the plan.

  • Getting something into orbit is complicated, so the Falcon 9 launch system uses two

  • main stages. The first stage is the most powerful one

  • with nine engines burning liquid oxygen and kerosene for up to three minutes.

  • Then, so that it doesn't have to drag all that extra mass into orbit, it separates

  • and the second stage takes over with just one engine propelling the cargo into orbit.

  • Normally, rockets like these are a one-time-use kind of deal

  • and each one costs about a hundred million dollars.

  • Since you have to build a new one every time

  • you wanna get off the planet,

  • space travel is really, really expensive!

  • It costs more than twenty thousand dollars for every kilogram of cargo your carry into orbit

  • so, in 2011 Musk announced his company's goal to build a reusable rocket

  • that would make space travel less costly.

  • Eventually the company plans to develop a whole system that is entirely reusable

  • but it's focusing on the first stage, for now.

  • The plan for this week's mission is to have some fuel remaining in the tank

  • in the first stage when it separates.

  • Then it'll fire three of its nine engines to slow itself down

  • and a control system will be deployed with special grid fins

  • to help prevent the rocket from going into a spin

  • and keep the engines pointed in the right direction.

  • Once it gets close to the landing platform, four landing legs

  • will deploy and the central engine will fire, letting it basically

  • settle into a soft landing, as opposed to usual hard landing where everything gets blown to bits.

  • This system was first tested over

  • land in a specially-designed rocket called the Grasshopper.

  • In 2012 and 2013 the grasshopper made eight hops

  • reaching altitudes of up to 744 meters

  • and landing safely on the ground each time.

  • The concept proved promising but still needed to be tried

  • on a Falcon 9 during an actual launch

  • of which it was tested over the ocean three times.

  • The plan was for the rocket to make a soft landing right on the surface of the ocean

  • and then tip over so that it would float over the water horizontally

  • In the first test in September 2013, the rocket went into a spin and the engines failed : (

  • During the next two tries in April and July of 2014

  • the system succeeded in slowing the first stage

  • down before it hit the water but it

  • turns out that the Atlantic ocean isn't the most friendly place

  • to land.

  • During the first test, the rocket was torn apart by rough seas

  • and the second, it hit the water too hard when it tipped over

  • and in the words of Elon Musk, went 'KABOOM.'

  • But this Friday's test flight will be different because the rocket won't be landing in the water -- exactly.

  • Instead SpaceX has built a landing platform for it

  • with the totally boss name of

  • 'Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship.'

  • Keeping this platform in one place is going to be tricky,

  • so with GPS as its guide, the drone ship will use

  • four thrusters to make sure that it doesn't move more than three meters --

  • even during a storm. That's important

  • because at 91 by 52 meters, the platform

  • isn't much bigger than the rocket itself.

  • Since this is the first test of its kind

  • SpaceX says that there is a high chance of failure.

  • But you gotta give them credit for even getting this far.

  • If it works, we will be well on our way

  • to reusable rockets and a much more accessible space travel.

  • If not, we'll still be one step closer.

  • Thanks for watching this SciShow Space News

  • If you wanna keep exploring the universe with us

  • you can go to

  • and subscribe!

Private space flight has had kind of a bad year between the failure of Orbital Sciences cargo rocket in Virginia

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SpaceX's Risky Reusable Rocket Launch

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    joey joey posted on 2021/04/18
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