SpaceX is one of the most successful private space flight companies in the world and has done very well with its Dragon capsule resupply missions to the ISS. One thing that SpaceX has been trying to perfect is the ability to land and reuse the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket to help cut the costs of space flight. SpaceX notes that the rocket itself is most of the cost of space flight.
Each of those first stage rockets costs as much as a jumbo jet. With the cost in perspective, it’s easy to see why SpaceX wants to reuse these rockets rather than throwing them away after each flight. So far, SpaceX has come close to landing the rockets for reuse, but hasn’t yet been successful. The third attempt at landing the rocket will happen this weekend on Sunday on a new SpaceX drone ship called “Of Course I Still Love You.”
To help make the landing happen as planned this time, SpaceX has tweaked a few things based on what they have learned in previous attempts. The first time SpaceX attempted a landing the rocket ran out of hydraulic fluid it uses to steer the small fins that help control the rockets descent too early, leading to a crash. The latest rockets have significantly more of that fluid to ensure control.
The last rocket landing that failed, but came very close to success, did so due to a valve becoming temporarily unable to respond fast enough to input leading to a hard landing that caused the rocket to fall over and explode. Changes have been made to prevent this from happening again. SpaceX admits that even with these changes, being able to land the rocket on the drone ship is still uncertain. You can watch the launch Sunday via this webcast.