recommended reading

SpaceX Is Set to Live-Test the Reusable Rocket That Could Change Spaceflight

John Raoux/Shutterstock.com

There’s some drama in space: A malfunctioning computer on the International Space Station (ISS) has jangled nerves around a routine re-supply mission already complicated by US-Russian tensions.

But there’s also important news in a surprise announcement from SpaceX, the private company headed by Elon Musk, which designed and built the rocket and spacecraft for the re-supply flight. The launch, scheduled for just before 5pm US Eastern time Monday, will also serve as a test of the company’s reusable rocket. After the robotic Dragon spacecraft is launched toward its rendezvous with the ISS in orbit, the Falcon rocket that sent it on its way won’t just tumble into the Atlantic ocean: It will attempt to deploy four landing legs and use thrusters to control its descent, something like this but over water:

SpaceX says that the test has a 30% to 40% probability of success, so it could all go pear-shaped. But the engineers there hope that the data collected during the attempt at a controlled descent will help them to refine their approach to building a more efficient launch vehicle. As we’ve written before, making a rocket reusable is something of a holy grail for Musk and SpaceX: While the rockets cost $54 million, their fuel costs only $200,000, so making most of the rocket reusable would save tens of millions of dollars and allow the fledgling rocket company—which already seeks to undercut its competitors on price—to dominate the putting-things-in-space business.

The 2.3 tons  (2.1 tonnes) of cargo in today’s launch consists mostly of scientific payloads to the station, including sensors and cameras for the station as well as VEGGIE, an experiment designed to allow astronauts to produce “salad-type vegetables in space.” But it will also contain food, additional spacesuits, and equipment needed to support a space walk on April 22 that will attempt to fix the malfunctioning computer.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.