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Thursday 1 September 2016

SpaceX news... good and bad......

It's been an ...interesting couple of weeks: We’ve had the discovery of a rocky planet in the habitable zone of the nearest star from Earth, SETI have discovered a candidate signal (which is probably terrestrial in origin)... and, now, SpaceX have blown up one of their rockets, and the very expensive satellite that was in it (no-one was hurt).

Oh dear. 

It was, at least, a very spectacular explosion and no-one was hurt,
But it's not all bad news for SpaceX - in fact, before this morning, things were looking very rosy indeed:
They've recovered six consecutive first stage launch boosters, bringing them in to land intact.... 

Like this one... courtesy of SpaceX.

...and, just this week, they've gotten their very first contract to launch a satellite on one of the recovered boosters.

They’ve also had a long string of successful recoveries of their Dragon space capsule – including the latest one carrying science experiments that have been completed by NASA on the ISS. They also have their first order for a crewed mission.

Above: A shot of  a 'propulsive test' of the Dragon capsules retro rockets. Courtesy of SpaceX.
So... what next? 

The explosion today will undoubtedly shake confidence and delay their timetables. But very little is yet known about the explosion's cause, so just how big a problem they might have on their hands is hard to say. The company has certainly bounced back from disasters in the past, and generally the news from them is both positive. As an example: They’re investing in using lighter, more expensive, materials in their boosters to give them higher performance

That has been possible with existing boosters before now, but as all previous commercial boosters have been throw-aways the investment didn’t really make sense. However a re-usable booster that may fly many times… that’s worth making the investment in to improve performance.

So despite - or even partly because of* - the explosion this morning it’s an exciting time to be a fan of space exploration. And it looks like the coming years could be more exciting still… 

*Especially if your work for SpaceX... my sympathies for all the incoming late nights guys.

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