Elon Musk famously said – and I paraphrase: show a little ankle but not the whole leg. SpaceX has recently shown us a little ‘Fin.’
Seems SpaceX has perfected rocket landings to the point that they’ve got time to work on finesse. New footage of a Falcon 9-R test flight at their McGregor TX site shows their test vehicle has ‘evolved’ fins which pop out of the sides like Tesla door handles. These paddles appear for attitude control and are deployed during descent. This should be a step up from the previous stopgap technique which involved bursts of gas from cold thrusters.
This engineering solution is obvious (in retrospect) – why haul heavy cylinders of thruster propellant to space and back when there’s plenty of linear air flow alongside the rocket? Besides lowering weight, paddles should make the landing maneuver a breeze!
One problem – it looks like the F9-R’s ready to serve waffles! New tech certainly receives the neighbours vote; the herd of cows seen at the end of the clip seem hardly bothered by the action – unlike previous launches. How did we get to behemoth rockets coming into land as commonplace?
Jokes aside, this bold F9-R adaptation should help secure SpaceX’s evolutionary niche for reusable spacecraft. If they can recover the booster stage, then cost to orbit should reduce by 70%. Recover the second stage as well, reduces cost closer to 100; basically you just pay for fuel. And when Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO, comments he can make fuel for free using air and solar cells… Reusable launch technology could be an access all areas pass for anyone (and everyone) interested in space tourism.
For all you SpaceX cadets: there’s a chance to see this tech in action right now. SpaceX plans to recover their rocket launched from the Cape today (Launch is scheduled for 6:08 p.m. EDT/2208 GMT) after it deploys six Orbcomm satellites. Happy returns SpaceX, the future’s all yours!
(PS Elon: I’m front of the line for space!)
What do you think of this new adaptation to the SpaceX rockets? Let us know in the comment section below or on your favorite social network.