CAPE CANAVERAL — SpaceX nabbed a major milestone Friday by landing a Falcon 9 rocket on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean after launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
“The whole reason for wanting to land was [SpaceX CEO Elon] Musk wants to be able to reduce the cost of launches by being able to rescue the first stage,” said Ray Lugo, director of University of Central Florida’s Florida Space Institute. “I was confident they would have a success eventually. It wasn’t about if, but when.”
That when happened Friday. Four previous failed landings had ended in spectacular explosions.
About nine minutes after launch, SpaceX’s Twitter account reported that the rocket had landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” barge off the coast of Florida.The landing happened after the rocket delivered more than 7,000 pounds of cargo in a Dragon capsule into space. That payload is expected to arrive at International Space Station on Sunday morning.
Morgan Smith of Cleveland, who just happened to be visiting family Friday, was among those who watched the successful launch from Cocoa Beach.
“We are very excited,” said Smith, who watched her first launch from Mambo's on the Space Coast. “We were looking for something fun to do and this launch happened to be coming today.”
In the lead-up to the launch, Patrick Air Force Base introduced a new service that will broadcast countdowns to soldiers on base and residents of the surrounding area.
“Control of the battlefield begins here on the Space Coast and the Airmen of the 45th Space Wing are one team providing assured access to space,” Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith said in a news release. “The ability to hear the launch countdown from anywhere on (Patrick Air Force Base) is a tangible reminder that each airman is critical to every successful launch.”
SpaceX's eighth cargo mission to the International Space Station carries with it several science experiments, including one by Anna-Sophia Boguraev, a 17-year-old high school student from New York.
Lugo said Musk’s persistence should be celebrated.
“If they can do this on a regular basis, it’s definitely going to reduce the cost of getting things to space,” he said. “That’s one of the key elements of this business model. They deserve a lot of credit for sticking with it. I’m glad to see they had success.”
Boguraev’s experiment will try to determine the effects of microgravity on an astronaut’s immune system. She said Thursday that a resurgence in the space industry has convinced her and a friend to eventually start their own space launch company.
“It's been a plan for a while,” she said. SpaceX “is something everyone knows about now. It's become more accessible.”
Also on board are supplies for astronauts and an inflatable living space that NASA last month said could one day contribute to life on Mars.
The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, will stay at the space station for two years. Other experiments headed into space include a fungi to research new medicine development and 20 mice as part of experiments that could lead to treatments for muscle-deteriorating diseases.
Quelle: SpaceX, Orlando Sentinel