Elon Musk has taken to Twitter to announce a new set of innovations by his company SpaceX which will help their reusable rockets navigate safely to their targets on the ground after delivering their payloads into orbit.
The new systems include special ‘x-wing’ flight fins to stabilise and control the descent of the SpaceX Falcon 9 booster rocket as it comes into land, as well as a remote control drone platform designed to travel the seas to allow safe landing away from populated areas.
In the tweets Musk showed off the new fins as well as the drone platform, which borrows tech from oil rig thrusters to stay within three metres of the landing zone – even in roiling seas wracked by storms.
The Falcon 9 Booster is designed so it can be used to send up payloads into orbit, such as satellites or equipment for the International Space Station, and then land back on Earth to be used again. Falcon 9 is planned to be able to touch down using the new fins as well as booster rockets at ‘near zero velocity’ according to press releases.
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This means the rocket will hit the ground or landing pad as softly as possible, so that landing legs will not need to be so bulky or massively efficient when the rocket lands, allowing for a more controlled landing.
SpaceX is going from strength to strength – figurehead Musk also announced recently that on top of handling Nasa’s ISS contracts the company will also be getting ready to deploy a ring of satellites that will one day cloak the world in a field of wireless internet signals – making the world wide web accessible in places where infrastructure doesn’t yet exist.
The Falcon 9 will obviously be a massive boon to this project, being able to deliver satellites time and time again with a lot less cost and maintenance than having a dedicated rocket deliver the payload each time. The reusability will also lower the chances of adding more dangerous space junk to the garbage floating around Earth.
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Tests have been running smoothly so far, with the exception of a regrettable explosion last August over Texas – as always, trial and error are coming into play in the emerging reusable rocket field.
It’s hoped that one day delivering equipment into orbit will be as environmentally friendly as possible, and with Musk’s Falcon 9 from SpaceX, this soon could be a reality. Check out the prototype fins in action on the video below.
Source: Elon Musk on Twitter