SpaceX has shared new footage of its Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) rocket being tested only for the second time, carefully blasting up to 1,000m and then safely returning back to the ground. The rocket quadrupled the height that it reached before descending over the first trial, making a landing that was a whole lot more successful than that of the SpaceX Falcon 9 last week.
The Falcon 9 booster rocket involved in the recent International Space Station resupply mission landed on April 25th, in the Atlantic. Ironically, it wasn’t a technical fault that scuppered the process, either – in fact, SpaceX’ Elon Musk said that the legs deployed correctly and the rocket was stable for around eight seconds.
Inclement weather, however, destroyed it. Musk has said that without storm conditions, a rocket that has seen a water landing could be refurbished in a few months; preferable is a ground landing, however, which could feasibly see the rocket refueled and ready to go again the same day.
This second F9R test flight is another step toward that eventual goal, though there are still a few stages the rocket needs to graduate through. SpaceX says it will soon be switching from fixed-position legs, as in this trial, to folding ones, with the stabilizers stowed by the rocket’s sides and then pushed out just prior to landing.
The F9R program follows SpaceX’s Grasshopper program last year, which first developed a module capable of not only upward and downward movement, but of carefully tracking across the sky, essential for safe recovery.