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Earth Space Communications Japan NASA Science Technology

SpaceX Successfully Lands Its Rocket On A Floating Drone Ship Again (theverge.com) 150

Early Friday morning, SpaceX successfully landed its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship at sea for the second time. The company has recovered the post-launch vehicle a total of three times, two of which involved the rocket landing on a floating drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. Before the launch, the landing was deemed unlikely as the rocket would be "subject to extreme velocities and re-entry heating" in its attempt to launch a Japanese communications satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit high above Earth. Elon Musk tweeted: "Rocket reentry is a lot faster and hotter than last time, so odds of making it are maybe even, but we should learn a lot either way." As a result of the successful mission, Musk followed up with, "May need to increase size of rocket storage hangar." The first successful launch was in December, when the rocket landed at a ground-based spaceport in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The second landing occurred in April on a floating drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
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SpaceX Successfully Lands Its Rocket On A Floating Drone Ship Again

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  • by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Friday May 06, 2016 @02:36AM (#52058979)

    Did the payload make it into the right orbit? That wasn't stated in TFA.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Payload made it to orbit.

      And to the idiot. Imagine that every time you drove to the shops you torched your car. That's current launch economics.

      Space-X is drive it home again, wipe the bugs off the screen, use it again tomorrow.

    • Yes, they had total mission success.

    • by cowdung ( 702933 )

      haha.. nobody cares..

      we only care if he lands his rocket. ;)

      (well, we do care.. because if it doesn't make it then the landing can't be said to be a full success)

  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Friday May 06, 2016 @02:36AM (#52058981) Homepage Journal

    Landing a first stage after a ballistic re-entry is a pretty big deal. This means that SpaceX can recover the first stage in low-remaining-fuel situations like heavy payloads, geostationary injection (because it's a higher orbit) and when the booster is the center stage of a Falcon Heavy (and is really high and far downrange).

    Since they've recovered 9 out of 10 engines, they've recovered most of the cost of both stages. If they can get a high recovery rate (and this more-difficult recovery argues that they might), that drives down the cost of a launch.

    People at ULA watched this one and it sure wasn't good news for them. They can't compete financially with SpaceX as an expended rocket, forget about their competing with working first-stage recovery. It also blows the ULA recovery strategy - ejecting the engines and recovering just them, instead of the entire booster - out of the water.

    But the big challenge for SpaceX now isn't one with astounding demonstrations of technology. It's doing the same thing over, and over, and doing it quickly, and making a profit. SpaceX wanted to reach a cadence of 18 launches this year, and they have so far launched 4 in the first third of the year. To be a profitable company and to reap the economic advantage of first-stage recovery, they will need to get higher than 18 per year.

    So, I'm disappointed that Elon announced the "instant Mars demo" immediately after last month's at-sea landing. Yes, for Elon SpaceX has always been about Mars. But now is the time for SpaceX to focus on making a profit and having a rapid cadence. If Elon does that, he will have lots of $$$ and recovered boosters for Mars projects.

    • If they can get a high recovery rate (and this more-difficult recovery argues that they might), that drives down the cost of a launch.

      The real question is how much it drives down the cost of a launch - I.E. how much does refurbishment and recertification cost? Yeah, yeah, I know what Musk has tweeted. I don't put much credence in his ego driven preening.

      But now is the time for SpaceX to focus on making a profit and having a rapid cadence. If Elon does that, he will have lots of $$$ and re

      • I don't put much credence in his ego driven preening.

        Much as I am blown away by all of this, I agree that Elon can't always be taken at face value. He reminds me of when I worked for Steve Jobs and we had to account for the "reality distortion field".

        There is more than just refurbishment cost. SpaceX has very large fixed costs. Only the operational costs will be changed by recovery.

        Consider the first airplane crashed at the end of every flight. Eventually we got to the point of minimal refurbishment necessa

        • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday May 06, 2016 @05:10AM (#52059319) Homepage

          There is more than just refurbishment cost. SpaceX has very large fixed costs. Only the operational costs will be changed by recovery.

          Indeed. Recovery can thus be seen as a "scale up" of operations, not a replacement for them. Last I heard they were hoping to get a couple dozen uses out of each stage. Doing so would thus represent a 1 1/2 orders of magnitude scaleup in operations.

          It's not really crazy because their needs are certainly expected to increase. Not even taking into account the growth in the market that would occur from such low prices. Every Falcon Heavy is going to consume 28 engines and represents four large cores. And who says things stop with the Heavy? We know some of the speculation about the "Raptor", but they could very well give a Raptor-powered main stage standard Falcon-style boosters. That is, if they ever do end up producing a large Raptor-powered launch system. And no matter what, every Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch consumes one engine that never comes back.

          With how much of the launch market they want to take over, especially for heavy launches, they're going to need a serious scaleup. And recovery is a type of "scaleup".

      • I'm not sure I get it right, but here's my impression.

        One-time rockets impose tight conditions on all parts' lifespans and quality: they must live through the launch with five nines reliability, yet making them last any longer is a waste of resources. Putting backups is a waste as well.

        The reuse, on the other hand, means that (1) long lasting parts are not a waste and (2) backups are not a waste. This means that longer lasting, less reliable parts (i.e. closer to civil manufacturing, think commercial aircra

        • Another thing to consider is that some parts suffer greater stresses and wear than other parts. The turbopump is probably the hardest working/wearing part. The tanks, on the other hand, are mostly just along for the ride.

    • by monkeyxpress ( 4016725 ) on Friday May 06, 2016 @03:18AM (#52059079)

      So, I'm disappointed that Elon announced the "instant Mars demo" immediately after last month's at-sea landing. Yes, for Elon SpaceX has always been about Mars. But now is the time for SpaceX to focus on making a profit and having a rapid cadence. If Elon does that, he will have lots of $$$ and recovered boosters for Mars projects.

      Perhaps, but the reality is that Elon did not design these rockets himself. What he did was convince the best minds in rocketry to move to a startup company with fewer resources than the companies they were leaving, longer work hours, and greater job insecurity. His ability to create a vision and convince people to buy into it is his real strength (as was Jobs etc) and that is what he knows best. Talent isn't easily attracted by 'we will ramp up production to xxx units per year'. It is attracted by 'we will change the world...' etc etc.

      Having said that, you are right that at some point Elon needs to deliver in quantity, both with SpaceX and Tesla. The reality is that changing the world normally requires a lot of boring grunt work and it will be interesting to see if he is a good enough business manager to pull this off. Worryingly, this lack of pragmatism is what sunk Jobs before his second coming. He got carried away with the vision on things like Lisa and this got in the way of making a commercially viable product. One just hopes that Musk's reality distortion field has not developed to a level where it engulfs the host yet.

      • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Friday May 06, 2016 @03:30AM (#52059109) Homepage Journal

        I had an office across the hall from Steve at Pixar for some years. I wasn't that important, maybe they just wanted to keep an eye on me. One day, he made his peace with Bill Gates, and sometime that day I looked up and the NeXT workstation wasn't on his desk any longer. There was a Windows laptop there.

        Maybe Elon will get that sort of rude awakening sometime.

        • by TheSync ( 5291 )

          One day, he made his peace with Bill Gates, and sometime that day I looked up and the NeXT workstation wasn't on his desk any longer. There was a Windows laptop there.

          I bet the next day he was so frustrated that he said "I bet I can sell NeXT to Apple and give them an operating system that doesn't suck this bad.."

          • The funny thing is that when he went back to Apple, he described it as "like a strung-out old girlfriend who you want to help, but you don't want to get too involved."

      • I think he's pretty aware of economies of scale. With Tesla he has been pushing toward the model 3 for years, just so the operation can be profitable and sustainable. To have him discount that whole strategy 'because rockets' sounds rather far-fetched.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This landing profile was lower-fuel, higher-speed, three-engines for (roughly) 10 seconds and 12G.

      It'll be interesting to see if their confidence in this much more aggressive landing burn means that they use it for easy missions as well, to increase the mass fraction a tad more.

    • Are the costs of the extra fuel required for landing plus recovery and refurbishment of the engines and control systems (I assume the rocket body is scrap) less than simply building a new one? I guess it must be if not now at least at some point in the future but I'd like to see some figures.

      • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Friday May 06, 2016 @03:40AM (#52059133) Homepage Journal

        Fuel isn't a big part of the cost. It's around $200K for the entire load.

        We have yet to find out about the refurbishment costs, they haven't even done the test burns on the second returned booster yet, but they are trying for essentially no refurbishment.

        This latest rocket came in at twice the speed (2 km/sec through the atmosphere) and had a 12-G burn at the end, and there might have been damage that wasn't on the other two recovered boosters.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        SpaceX hasn't given any indication that they would need to replace the body, although we won't know until they've successfully relaunched a used stage. They most likely won't reveal the exact costs (we don't know the manufacturing cost for new stages or their profit margins either) as that's proprietary.

        • Their intent is to "gas and go": replenish fluids and fly again. They've discussed future plans of refueling at sea and flying the stages back to land, which gets them back in a few minutes and avoids a long and costly trip with a support vessel towing an ASDS which is unavailable for landings until it gets towed back out to sea.

          They've not relaunched, but they refueled and fired up the first stage they brought back. Something broke loose and was ingested by one of the turbopumps, shutting one engine down,

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Friday May 06, 2016 @04:58AM (#52059287)

      So, I'm disappointed that Elon announced the "instant Mars demo" immediately after last month's at-sea landing. Yes, for Elon SpaceX has always been about Mars. But now is the time for SpaceX to focus on making a profit and having a rapid cadence. If Elon does that, he will have lots of $$$ and recovered boosters for Mars projects.

      Cheaper launches are about Mars. You don't launch to Mars. You launch 10-100 times to build a launch platform in orbit, then launch to Mars from orbit, not the surface. So as the costs drop, the profitability increases. The profits are "reinvested" into more launches (unpaid ones) to put up a Mars launch platform. With 18 per year, and 10% being profits launched as "bonus" launches, that'd be about 2 a year dedicated to Mars. Depending on the plan, that puts the Mars launch a few years off. If they can launch more per year, they can speed that up, but they seem very connected. Launches = Mars. Not today, not tomorrow, but eventually.

    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday May 06, 2016 @05:02AM (#52059297) Homepage

      Indeed, I have to wonder what ULA is thinking going forward. They made the mistake of seriously underestimating SpaceX. It's understandable - there have been a lot of wannabee private rocket companies over the years. But they really dropped the ball on this one. Now they're deep in the middle of working towards an incremental, 50% price reduction via the Vulcan, which isn't anywhere close to being enough to be competitive.

      So what do they do? I assume they finish their current efforts and try to get as many (probably at least partially coerced) launches out of it as they can. But meanwhile? Some possibilities:

      1) Start over from scratch and target an even lower launch cost than SpaceX. It's certainly possible; rocketry costs are still orders of magnitude more than the cost of the energy that the rockets consume.
      2) Move to a launch niche market filling in the gaps in SpaceX's product line (smaller rockets, storeable rockets, etc)
      3) Take a "bold leap" in another direction, such as focusing on space tugs (such as Lockheed's "Jupiter") - basically, giving SpaceX LEO while claiming for themselves beyond-LEO.
      4) Refocus away from rockets, to satellite development
      5) Focus on NASA contracts unrelated to delivering payloads for low prices - for example trying to become a prime contractor on interplanetary crew vehicles, whatever-giant-rocket-congress-has-mandated, etc, things of that nature.
      6) Move into a rocketry supporting role, focused on launch/range/communications services/etc
      7) Try to crush SpaceX by whatever dubious legal and political means they can dream up
      8) Put head in sand, pray that SpaceX shoots itself in the foot
      9) Give up on the space market altogether, focus on other businesses.

      Right now they seem to be going for 20% #7, 80% #8, meaning that they're probably headed toward #9.

      • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

        I would argue that the only way to undercut SpaceX is via a Skylon approach and I don't think the technology is available to ULA.

        On the other hand the ESA should ditch Ariane 6 before it goes any further and go full in on Skylon/Reaction Engines as the would have access to the technology.

        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          I would not agree with that. There's a lot of interesting approaches out there (I even have one of my own... though so does every other rocketry nut on the planet ;) ) for significant cost reduction. The question is what will actually play out best, with what sort of investment, in what sort of market.

      • There's one other possibility that's a variation of the possibilities that you've listed:

        Buy a used rocket fleet from Elon and launch those. That way ULA can leverage all of their launch provider infrastructure while getting the benefits of lower cost.

        If SpaceX manages to continue cores, they're going to have a backlog to refly. If they successfully refly their cores multiple times (validating reuse), but are not able to step up launch cadence because of staffing/location issues, it creates a window f

      • Well, Tory Bruno is claiming the ACES upper stage will be a sort of space tug, it will stay and get refueled on orbit and then will be able to reposition payloads launched to it.

        They can also just remain a second option for 'Assured Access to Space' and collect whatever subsidies are required to keep them afloat until someone else like Blue Origin or Orbital ATK make them redundant.

    • by r0kk3rz ( 825106 )

      But the big challenge for SpaceX now isn't one with astounding demonstrations of technology. It's doing the same thing over, and over, and doing it quickly, and making a profit. SpaceX wanted to reach a cadence of 18 launches this year, and they have so far launched 4 in the first third of the year. To be a profitable company and to reap the economic advantage of first-stage recovery, they will need to get higher than 18 per year.

      Not true, maybe not as astounding to watch but a big demonstration of technology is actually flying those engines again, and again.

      There's not much use to showy rocket landings unless they can cheaply run those engines again

    • Not that I'm really disagreeing with you but how big is the total launch market at current rates? This is not like Tesla and the car market, as I understand it SpaceX is already a fairly big player. Even with reusable rockets there won't be a mass market any time soon.

      • SpaceX is a big player indeed. Take a look at http://spaceflightnow.com/laun... [spaceflightnow.com], and you'll see that SpaceX is right up there in launches scheduled. It's even competitive with Soyuz. That's with Falcon Heavy not online yet, too; they'll be able to pick up even more jobs once they can put heavy and even super-heavy-class payloads up. For that matter, they may not even need FH for that; according to their latest payload limit updates, the F9 is a Heavy-Lift Launch Vehicle (more than 20 tons to LEO) if flown in expendable configuration (no legs, no fins, probably little if any first-stage RCS, and no need to conserve fuel for re-entry and landing). They can't re-use those boosters, but they can use the profit margin on them to focus on making reusable launches even cheaper and faster.

        As for mass market, though, that's a case where SpaceX's success will feed on itself. Right now, satellites are super expensive to launch. This means that you want to make the ones you launch super-reliable (sucks to get them into space and discover they don't work), very feature-rich (to maximize value per launch), as long-lived as possible (to amortize their launch cost over a longer time), and as future-proof as possible (because expanding capacity or capabilities later will be extremely expensive). All of this, of course, makes the satellites themselves extremely expensive. Therefore, there's less market for launches, because there's only so many satellites that it makes sense to launch at $200M a pop.

        Now, imagine that the launch costs go way down. Suddenly, the total cost of launching a satellite also goes way down, and the vast majority of it is now the cost of the satellite. When you can launch two cheap satellites for less total cost than one expensive one and get the same capabilities, or launch four three-year satellites (planning each one to be an upgrade on the last) instead of one long-lived beast that will need bleeding-edge components at launch and still be quite obsolete in 12 years (but costs more than 4 times as much), you will end up with double or quadruple your launch count. When launches become cheap enough that it's viable to build an affordable global personal communication network like what Iridium wanted to be, you'll see a wave of companies wanting to put up the network that will replace the concept of cell towers, and they'll need to put up a *lot* of satellites.

        Also, it's not just satellites. Remember that Dragon 2 is designed to be reusable as well. When launching a human-rated vehicle into orbit becomes cheap enough that space tourists don't have to be one of the 0.001%, you'll have a lot more people lining up to go... and you'll need places for them to go, so that'll increase your satellite market again as Bigelow and such launch space hotels. Then there's things like asteroid mining, which is currently hampered by launch costs but could become a regular source of launch contracts if the costs come down enough to make the business model viable.

        As for "any time soon"... launches are already accelerating. It'll snowball as prices drop, as reliability increases, and as capacities expand.

    • But the big challenge for SpaceX now isn't one with astounding demonstrations of technology. It's doing the same thing over, and over, and doing it quickly, and making a profit.

      I agree with you that is a core problem for the company. Having two launch pads in Florida and getting the third launch pad in Texas (not ignoring the one in California.... but that is specialized for polar/military payloads) is going to help a lot in terms of clearing their manifest too. Gwynne Shotwell just gave a speech with a Q&A recently about the Falcon Heavy and made a few remarks about the work done on pad 39A too. They are just about ready to start using that site for launch operations there, where a second launch team is likely to help increase that flight rate.

      I'll also point out that at the moment range operations at Cape Canaveral in general needs to be streamlined if launch rates are to be increased. That involves more than just SpaceX and might even require a general rethinking for flight operations there for the other launch providers that use the same site. I know for a fact that the Space Shuttle really messed up launch schedules where a Shuttle launch not only took priority but also blocked out a huge hunk of the calendar for nearly a 3-4 week period of time. I would expect that the SLS and the crewed launches (both SpaceX and Boeing are launching out of KSC) are going to be in a similar situation.

      By Texas law and the contract signed by SpaceX with the City of Brownsville and the surrounding communities, the Brownsville spaceport can have at most 12 launches per year and each one must be no closer than 20 days from the previous launch. While that might help work around some scheduling problems for some payloads when stuff is happening at the cape, it doesn't mean there is going to be much more of an increased launch tempo.

      In other words, I think about the most that almost any private commercial launch provider could ever do right now with the current launch infrastructure for orbital spaceflight in America is about 20 launches per year... and that is being very generous. Last year SpaceX got in seven flight, with one catastrophic failure that required a full engineering review and a return to flight program that satisfied not only the FAA-AST regulators but also all of the customers... especially NASA and the DOD. If they get over a dozen flights in this year, I would be surprised.

      • I think the launch cadence law with Brownsville might change eventually. Brownsville wants jobs and that little neighborhood near Boca Chica isn't going to stand in the way.

        I don't believe that two F9 launches a month per pad presents any logistical complications. Recovery would need more vessels. They aren't yet ready to launch FH that fast, so 1 FH/month. So, say 12/year for Boca Chica, 24 for Vandenberg, 24 for KSC LC-39a, and 24 for Canaveral AFB pad 40 are the maximum they could do right now. That's a

  • by xeno ( 2667 ) on Friday May 06, 2016 @02:40AM (#52058983)

    On one hand, it's thrilling to see the incredible become very credible. The very idea of this kind of spacecraft landing was thought to defy the laws of physics a decade ago, considered an engineering impossibility just a few short years ago, foolish to attempt last year, and by the end of this year, it probably won't get a headline. I'm not sure I'd want to work there, but the pace of SpaceX's science and engineering advancements is astounding. Kudos to anyone who can take the stress; the output is truly impressive.

    More in the moment, though, I see what they meant by "subject to extreme velocities and re-entry heating" as it appears the octaweb shielding took enough heat damage from the 2x re-entry speed and 3-engine retroburn that the shielding and some underlying componentry continued to burn for a bit. But the borg over there interpret damage as education, and I doubt we'll see the same problem again. F*ing impressive. I look forward to more info in the morning.

    • We don't know what was burning down there. It might just have been fuel seeping out of the turbopump. They did a 3-rocket burn this time, and the other two times we've seen a 1-rocket burn.

      It's got a much larger fire on the way up. I agree it was alarming, but we don't know that it represented actual damage yet.

      • by xeno ( 2667 )

        Sort of... there's far more heat stress behind the engines on re-entry than launch. And while low-level fire suppression (misting, more or less) on the drone ship is more or less par for the course, the SpaceX operators had to be significantly worried to fire up a high-pressure nozzle toward the engines, what with the potential thermal damage from sudden uneven cooling, not to mention physically pushing it sideways. All speculation, but yeah, it was alarming.

        Overall, though, another serious win for scienc

        • There's a lot of water dumped on the pad at launch, and I'm sure some of it splashes on to the bells.

          I don't think they are worried about pushing it sideways, the word from Musk is that they don't really have to tie the rocket down once it's landed, and winds and rocking on something 160 feet high are probably more force than that water stream. The rocket is very bottom-heavy with the tanks empty.

          When they turned the water on, the nozzle was tilted upward. It wasn't aimed at where the flame was. So it's not too clear what was going on, but I agree that nozzle looked like it was commanded or the result of some sort of fire alarm.

      • We don't know what was burning down there. It might just have been fuel seeping out of the turbopump.

        As the booster uses fuel as the working fluid in the hydraulic system (in a total-loss manner), it probably was fuel from the hydraulic system leaking/draining. A concern I had was that since this is a total-loss system (the fuel is not recirculated, but rather dumped when "the other side" of an actuator is powered) the booster could have run out of fuel/hydraulic fluid before it touched down. Wonder how much was left in the tank?

      • by Valkyre ( 101907 )

        The after-burning is expected. The same thing happens on a pad safe during an abort. https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] This is the aborted launch from SES-9, and you can clearly see that there are flames under the rocket post-abort, but this same rocket launched 4 days later (had to make a new launch window) without issue.

    • Is there a decent video of the launch and landing? That Verge article is just animated GIFs and tweets.
      • by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Friday May 06, 2016 @04:33AM (#52059243) Journal

        The landing is at about 9:10 here [youtube.com] but there isn't very much to see: it was a night landing from a nearby camera - the moment of landing is invisible in glare. You get to see the glare, then it fades to reveal the landed rocket.

        • Hopefully they'll post an aerial video soon, though the quality will still be less than that amazing video of the daytime landing.

          On the live feed, a bunch of people sort of sighed or went "aww" as the screen lit up with the glow... I guess it kind of looked like the rocket had exploded, and the video was frozen before that so you couldn't tell what had happened. Then the exhaust and glow start to clear and you can see the intact landing legs and engine nozzles, and all hell breaks loose.

          I was dancing in my

        • by Anonymous Coward

          There was something very significant to see in my opinion. Pause it at 9:15 just as the camera adjusts to the flare, and look at the drone ship itself. If you do a search and find an overhead shot of the drone ship, you'll see there are two circles on it - a large outer white circle, and a smaller, yellow inner circle, with a logo in the center. The legs are visibly within the yellow circle, aside from the leg on the left which is out of the frame. They landed *more* precisely than they did on the previous

        • Here you go [youtube.com]. For future reference, just tack an "&t=8m53s" on the end of the link, substituting whatever value for minutes and seconds you're looking for. I linked a bit earlier than 9:10 to establish context.
    • I'm not sure I'd want to work there, but the pace of SpaceX's science and engineering advancements is astounding. Kudos to anyone who can take the stress; the output is truly impressive.

      I get stressed whenever I have less work than I can handle, and feel great when I can really make a contribution and the work is twice the amount I could handle with confidence, and I need to find a solution that saves the whole project. The rush I get when I make the deadline in those circumstances is amazing.

      Working with slower folks who need to have everything explained twice is also creating a lot of stress for me. I prefer smart co-workers that just need a few words, or none at all, and where we can co

  • Why should we be impressed by them repeating already demonstrated science? You think this is a nerd site or something?

  • Arguably a first (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cbhacking ( 979169 ) <been_out_cruisin ... om ['oo.' in gap> on Friday May 06, 2016 @03:51AM (#52059159) Homepage Journal

    The headline ends with the word "again", making it sound like this is a repeat of a prior event, but in reality this is very much a new achievement. The first two successful landings were from relatively light payloads sent into low Earth orbit (LEO). This mission was sent to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO), a much harder destination. The max payload for GTO is well under half what it is for LEO, because you need to get the satellite going much faster.

    To get a big satellite to that orbit, SpaceX has to push the launch vehicle a lot closer to its limits. The engines burn longer, on the ascent, leaving the rocket with less fuel to try and slow itself for landing. At the same time, the first stage boosts to a much higher suborbital peak. It therefore has to re-enter through more atmosphere, while going faster, with less fuel to slow down. The increased speed and distance means more heating of the bottom of the rocket, which doesn't have anything like the heat shielding a Dragon capsule (or similar) would. Fortunately, it's not going as fast as an orbital capsule... but it's still going a lot faster than it would be on a launch to LEO.

    Demonstrating that the first stage can be recovered even after a launch to GTO is a really big deal. In it's own way, it's as big a deal as the first two successful landings. In December we saw the first ever landing for an orbital booster, then a few weeks ago we saw the first ever landing at sea (which is necessary for GTO boosters to have any hope of landing, but that launch was a LEO launch). Today, we saw the first even landing of a GTO launcher. That is a huge deal!

    • Re:Arguably a first (Score:5, Informative)

      by oobayly ( 1056050 ) on Friday May 06, 2016 @06:24AM (#52059463)

      I had to watch the SES-9 & CRS-8 missions to check that out*. For GTO, MECO is at 8,300km/h & 65km. For LEO, MECO is at 6600km/h & 74km. So they managed to recover a stage travelling 25% faster. The lateral velocity would have been greater too, because the launch profile is flatter.

      * Not really to check it out, but to compare the actual numbers. It'll obviously have to go faster to get to GTO.

  • not already covered in the summary here.

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