After four and a half months of hiatus, SpaceX launched on Saturday. It took off from its California base at 9:54 am. It carries 10 “Iridium NEXT satellite telephone relay stations.”
If everything turned out well, the first stage of the rocket would have an offshore droneship landing. The second stage would continue to orbit.
Last January, the rocket failed to land a stage on the drone ship after it took off from Vandenberg. The reason for that failure was that one of its boosters did not lock in place.
Elon Musk and his company decided to reuse rocket stages to lower the launch costs.
Although the rocket launches are vital to SpaceX, a successful return to launch on Saturday was especially important after an in-flight failure in 2015 and an on-pad explosion last year.
The record of Falcon 9 of two failures in its 29 rockets is in contrast to the record of United Launch Alliance, a major US competitor of SpaceX, which launched 102 more expensive rockets without a failure.
The Arianespace, on the other hand, launched more than 75 in a row.
For the SpaceX president and CEO, Gwynne Shotwell, every launch is a significant emotional event. But the recent launch was a little more nerve-racking than normal.
SpaceX has 70 flights. The rocket builder lost around $260 million during the in-flight failure in 2015. It launched only six missions instead of the original plan of 12.
It is not known yet what effect the September failure had on the company’s financial status or how the delays will affect its bottom line. In 2016, it only launched eight flights and delayed seven more.
However, the company said that none of its customers abandoned SpaceX. In fact, it is enjoying a healthy customer relationship. It has $1 billion in cash reserves, and it does not have any debt. That said, the company is in a strong position, at least financially, for future growth.
The 2015 Failure
The cause of the failure was a broken strut in the second stage of the rocket. When that strut failed, a tank that supplied helium gas broke free. It caused the breakup of the second stage.
The engineers of the company carried out an investigation to know the cause of the explosion in Florida and determine corrective actions.
The Falcon 9’s latest version uses densified liquid oxygen and kerosene fuel to add performance when it goes up. Liquid oxygen has a normal temperature of -298 degrees Fahrenheit. However, SpaceX chilled the propellant to minus 340 degrees. The kerosene fuel was also chilled. The lower temperatures of these two allowed the propellant to be loaded.
Elon Musk has high goals. He wants to colonize Mars and revolutionize the launch industry.
He is planning to achieve them by making rocket comments that can be reused.
SpaceX has a billion contract with NASA. Its goal is to supply the International Space Station with the use of Dragon space capsule. It is the only cargo ship that can come back to Earth intact.