Have you ever wanted to go to space? At Elon Musk’s SpaceX, the first private company to go to the ISS, scientists and engineers have been working to make space travel less expensive. SpaceX has made reusable rocketry possible with its new spaceship, the Falcon 9. The Falcon 9 lowered the cost of space travel and made it possible to use the same rocket multiple times, because of the genius of the engineering behind it. If this type of progress continues, it will become possible for many more people to go to space.
The Falcon 9, a new type of reusable spaceship, has lowered the cost of spaceships dramatically. This new type of spaceship made the cost of building orbital class spaceships drop from 90 million dollars to 62 million dollars. However, companies would like to lower the price of taking someone to space to around 30 million dollars for the first flight. With more progress, they could make the price of spaceships go down to even less than 30 million dollars.
Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, believes that reusability is “just as fundamental in rocketry as it is in other forms of transport - such as cars or planes or bicycles.” He believes that he can make space travel much cheaper and affordable: “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.” If this truly happens, and the price of spaceships can go down by a factor of a hundred, then he could move the price of making a spaceship from 62 million dollars to just 620 thousand dollars, making space much more affordable. This can be accomplished through the technology building over time at SpaceX.
At 5:21 P.M. on March 30th 2017, SpaceX sent the first reusable cargo ship to the ISS, from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A), which made it out of orbit and sent the engine back to a drone ship on the earth. Later, the Dragon would return from the ISS, becoming the first reusable cargo ship. At 5:07 P.M. on the next day, SpaceX was about to send the returned cargo ship back up to the ISS. When it reached the ISS, it was to become the first returning spaceship ever, but the flight was delayed 2 days because of thunderstorms. In spite of this setback, the mission continued. Two days later, at 3:00 P.M., they tried again to launch the recycled ship which landed on the ISS, becoming the first returning spaceship. This was an important breakthrough in the realm of reusable spaceships.
The Falcon 9 is a new combination of the Dragon Spacecraft and the Merlin thrusters, which further increases the efficiency of these rockets. According to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 page, the Dragon is a “fully autonomous spacecraft designed to transport cargo and ultimately people to and from orbit.” It has 1 Merlin Engine specially modified to work in the vacuum, and 9 Merlin Engines to allow the ship to exit the atmosphere. It can also re-enter the atmosphere safely onto a drone ship because of its landing legs. The engines are active for 162 seconds, allowing for a thrust of 8,227 kN (1,849,503 LBS) while in a vacuum and a thrust of 7,607 kN (1,710,122 LBS) at sea level. This design allows for reusability in spaceships, and will ultimately allow for less expensive space travel.
The promise of the Falcon 9 will eventually lead to space travel being generally accessible. The cost, process, and workings of the Falcon 9 and eventually other ships will all be improved in the years of research to come. With research like this happening all the time, maybe we can even use interstellar spaceships to travel between stars.