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SpaceX Nails Its Return-to-Flight Launch and Landing

SpaceX is back on the road to recovery from its September 1st launch failure by launching ten satellites from Vanderberg Air Force Base in California. The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket came down for a smooth landing on the drone ship named Just Read The Instructions. SpaceX commentator John Insprucker called the successful deployment of satellites owned by Iridium Communications “a clean sweep – 10 for 10.”

Joint Investigation Pins Down The Cause of the Mishap

A joint investigation of the previous mishap by SpaceX and the Federal Aviation Administration tracked down an issue with buckling in the inner lining of a composite overwrapped pressure vessel (COPV) used to store liquid helium. This buckling allowed supercooled liquid oxygen to pool in the overwrap. This can cause the oxygen to become trapped and freeze to a solid state when the COPV is pressurized and the even colder liquid helium is loaded.

SpaceX’s Ambitious Plans

The goal of SpaceX's Return-to-Flight was to launch a constellation of satellites. Image credit NASA Spaceflight.
The goal of SpaceX’s Return-to-Flight was to launch a constellation of satellites. Image credit NASA Spaceflight.

SpaceX’s current workload includes a total of 70 planned rocket launches, which includes private launches and a contract with NASA to periodically launch cargo to the International Space Station. SpaceX also plans to debut a heavy-lift booster later this year.

Elon Musk’s long-range goals include perfecting the reusable rocket as part of his goal of making launch services more affordable and, of course, founding a Mars colony. As he is famous for saying, “I would like to die on Mars. Just not on impact.”

SpaceX has demonstrated an ability to recover nicely from a mishap by returning to flight only a few months after the failed rocket launch in September. As its own track record for landing rockets on barges has shown, it’s okay to fail sometimes:

And if you learn from your failures and keep trying, you may eventually succeed:

Of course, one should never think that designing, building and launching a rocket is easy:

But that’s okay if you’re resilient and can avoid making the same mistake twice in a row:

SpaceX does plan to rebuild its launchpad in Cape Canaveral for future launches. For now, this successful launch is the first of an ambitious schedule of 27 launches that SpaceX has planned for this year.

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About Heidi Hecht

Heidi Hecht is a space geek, freelance content writer and owner of the Nothing in Particular Blog. She is also a published author with a new book, "Blockchain Space: How And Why Cryptocurrencies Fit Into The Space Age", now available on Amazon and Google Play.

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