Twice now, SpaceX has demonstrated that it’s Dragon Capsule can be sent into space, complete its mission, return to Earth, and then fly another mission to space. This most recently happened this past Saturday, when the capsule returned from docking with the International Space Station and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. The capsule had been docked with the ISS for about a month.
SpaceX shared this image of the capsule after it came back from space:
To me, it looks like a toasted marshmallow.
The capsule, part of the CRS-13 mission in December, held over two tons of cargo for NASA, including many experiments. The same capsule was used on the CRS-6 Mission, which launched in April 2015 and returned in May 2015.
What’s more is that the same Falcon 9 rocket that was used in the CRS-11 mission, which launched on June 3, 2017, was also used in the CRS-13 mission!
Here’s a video of the Falcon 9 landing during the CRS-11 mission in June 2017:
And here’s the same Falcon 9 rocket landing after completing its part of the CRS-13 mission in December 2017:
Beyond the “holy shit, this is incredible!” feeling we all have, this is important because it shows proof of concept for Elon Musk. First, it shows that rockets can be re-used over and over again with success. Second, it shows that the capsules themselves can be re-used, too. This is an important step in making space more accessible and expanding our limits of exploration.
What’s even more exciting is that later this month, SpaceX plans to launch its Falcon Heavy, dubbed “the world’s most powerful rocket.” The first stage itself uses not one, but three Falcon 9 rockets, with a total of 27 Merlin engines, which will generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. SpaceX even has a “pricing” guide on their website, whey they offer competitive pricing for a Falcon 9 launch, at just $62 million. You know, if you have that sort of change just laying around under your couch cushions.