‘Poyekhali!’: SpaceX Falcon 9 FT first stage returns to Port Canaveral
PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. — It is (if SpaceX has anything to say about it) the first of (many) big things to come. In the (very) early morning hours of April 12, 2016, the first stage of the Falcon 9 (FT) rocket pulled into Florida’s Port Canaveral and the NewSpace firm went right to work in preparing to offload it from the Of Course I Still Love You Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship.
The stage’s return, which came four days after it had landed on the ASDS was made on the 55th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s, and humanity’s, first trip into the black of space.
During the Soviet cosmonaut’s flight all those years ago, Gagarin started his historic flight with the words: “Poyekhali!” – Russian for, essentially, “Let’s go!” Similar words, with a slightly more capitalistic accent, are now being spoken as SpaceX has successfully demonstrated that retrieving a stage from orbit is feasible. SpaceX will now remove the stage from the ASDS and test out how it fared after roaring to orbit and its time at sea.
SpaceX hopes that it can recover the stages from the boosters that the Hawthorne, California-based firm uses to send payloads to orbital destinations and beyond. This is important in terms of changing the historical dynamic where the first stages of rockets were left to fall back to Earth – where they and their expensive engines were destroyed.
In short, the company is looking to change how space flight is done, and the first stage that touched down at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Landing Zone 1 on December 21, 2015 (after the launch of 11 Orbcomm OG2 satellites), as well as the one at Port Canaveral today, could be the first step toward that transformation.
SpaceX launched the CRS-8 mission on April 8, 2016, at 4:43 p.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida. Two days later, the Dragon cargo vessel arrived at the International Space Station and was subsequently berthed to the orbiting lab.
Space enthusiasts, journalists, and the general public anxiously awaited the historic arrival of the booster and the ship that carried the precious cargo back to port.
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Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.