What is it about space that intrigues the corporate moguls of the day? Richard Branson has his Virgin Galactic, while Amazon’s Jeff Bezos counts Blue Origin as part of his portfolio. Perhaps they all grew up on Star Trek — it’s that final frontier thing.
And here we have Tesla CEO Elon Musk in the news once again with his SpaceX program. The aerospace designer and manufacturer had a successful Saturday, launching the “Iridium-1” mission: A Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg AFB in California. The rocket carried 10 satellites into space for Iridium, a voice/data company. Not only did the satellites make it into space, but the first stage rocket booster successfully returned, landing on a floating platform known as a drone ship. CNN points out that due to the usual one-and-done use of typical rockets (and the cost), sticking the return landing is the key concept in making these efforts more affordable, as the boosters can be used again. Saturday marked SpaceX’s seventh successful landing.
News of the successful launch is sure to give SpaceX a shot in the confidence arm. Back in the fall, it lost a rocket plus payload in a fiery explosion during pre-launch testing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. AP says “SpaceX announced this month that investigators concluded the accident involved a failure of one of three helium tanks inside the rocket’s second-stage liquid oxygen tank.”
SpaceX reportedly has a busy schedule, too — it has 70 launches on the books, worth $10 billion. Besides the commercial payload launches, SpaceX hauls supplies up to the International Space Station and is working on a capsule that will transport astronauts to the station as well.
The sheer vastness of space and the limitless possibilities are compelling reasons to shoot for the stars. Human history is replete with those that have sought to push — and break — boundaries in all their forms. “To boldly go … ” and all that. And with $10 billion in launches on the docket, space is also a tidy cash machine for SpaceX, too.
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