SPACEX FALCON 9: STUNNING IMAGES GIVE RAZOR-SHARP VIEW OF DRONESHIP LANDING

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SPACEX FALCON 9: STUNNING IMAGES GIVE RAZOR-SHARP VIEW OF DRONESHIP LANDING

The Falcon 9, SpaceX’s most commonly-used rocket, has completed another successful droneship landing.MIKE BROWN7.7.2020 4:34 AM

The Falcon 9, the rocket that’s reliably served SpaceX missions for the past decade, has been photographed landing in impressive quality.

SpaceX launched the B1060 booster on its first mission on June 30 at 4:10 p.m. Eastern time, taking off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Staton in Florida. On board was a third-generation Global Positioning System satellite, as part of the United States Space Force’s planned upgrades to the constellation used by everything from jet planes to smartphones. Little wonder why CEO Elon Musk marked the launch by posting on Twitter that “your GPS just got slightly better.”

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Following the launch, the booster successfully landed on the droneship Just Read the Instructions. Three new images of the landing, shared via SpaceX’s Twitter account Monday, give fans an impressively clear view of the booster coming in to land.

View of the big moment.SpaceX

Around five minutes after the company shared the images, fans on the SpaceX dedicated subreddit started a discussion around the new photos. One of the most notable developments with these images is the clear view of the octograbber at the base of the booster. This robot, SpaceXFleet explains, is remotely sent out after a landing and uses its four arms to attach to the underside of the booster.

The octagrabber in full viewSpaceX

The octograbber helps secure the booster as the ship makes its way back to land. It’s an issue that has hit the company before. Following the first Falcon Heavy commercial mission in April 2019, SpaceX lost the central booster for the triple-core vehicle into the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX didn’t use the octograbber for that mission because the booster used a different mechanical interface to the Falcon 9. It was an expensive lesson in why the pictured robot is so critical to missions.

Coming in to land.SpaceX

These booster landings are borderline commonplace now, but they hold the key to reducing the cost of space travel and funding more ambitious missions like a manned mission to Mars. The booster is estimated to comprise around $46.5 million of the total $62 million price tag associated with a Falcon 9 mission.

The company has rapidly perfected its landing abilities. It tried, and failed, to land its first booster back in 2013. Its first successful landing was in 2014. By 2017 it set a record for most boosters landed in a year with 15, a record it has yet to beat. This year SpaceX has successfully landed eight boosters.

All this is leading up to the Starship, SpaceX’s under-development rocket designed to send humans to Mars. First unveiled under the name “BFR” in September 2017, the ship is designed to be fully reusable, using liquid oxygen and methane as its fuel. This would enable humans to travel to Mars, refuel using the planet’s resources, and either return home or continue their journey further out into the solar system.

THE INVERSE ANALYSIS – The images are impressive, particularly because it’s so hard to capture high-quality images from landings. YouTube channel “Primal Space” explained in June 2018 that these rocket landings tend to cut the live video feed used to televise rocket launches. That’s because the vibrations from the landing cause the droneship to lose line of sight with satellites. The video tends to return once the vibrations reduce.

The images are also comparably rare due to the nature of sea-based landings. Land-based launches offer the opportunity for third parties to set up cameras and prepare for the big moment, a luxury not afforded to the confines of a droneship.

These photos are impressive, but if the Starship proves a success, they could become relatively commonplace.RELATED TAGS

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SPACEX STARSHIP: INCREDIBLE FALCON 9 COMPARISON SHOWS WHY FANS ARE EXCITED

The Starship, SpaceX’s giant ship destined for the moon and Mars, overshadows its predecessor in more ways than one.MIKE BROWN7.6.2020 9:27 AM

The Starship, SpaceX’s giant rocket designed to send humans to the moon and Mars, looks set to eclipse its predecessor.

On July 4, Minnesota-based hobby 3D artist Bart Caldwell shared an image via Twitter of how the firm’s upcoming ship compares to the Falcon 9. The Falcon 9 has been used by the firm since 2010 to launch up satellites – and, as of May 2020, NASA astronauts – but the under-development Starship is designed to take on those challenges and much more. The image shows the giant Starship with a Falcon 9 fairing inside, with 60 Starlink satellites and a man inside the smaller fairing.

Neopork85’s image shared via Twitter.Bart Caldwell

Caldwell, who goes by “Neopork85” on Twitter, also sent Inverse a new image showing the same setup from a new angle. This alternate image shows the Falcon 9 fairing when covered.

The interior of the Starship, with the Falcon 9 fairing and a man for scale.Bart Caldwell

Although the Starship is designed to carry out similar roles, the scale is much larger. The Falcon 9 stands 230 feet tall and measures 12 feet in diameter, with the ability to carry over 50,000 pounds to low-Earth orbit. The Starship, on the other hand, is expected to measure nearly 400 feet tall, with a diameter of 30 feet and the ability to send over 220,000 pounds to low-Earth orbit.

Caldwell, who works as an operations manager for a healthcare institute, tells Inverse that he decided to create the images to get a better sense of the size differences.

“I think it illustrates that Falcon 9 already has an impressively large payload volume,” Caldwell says. “The real game-changer with Starship, other than an enormous fairing, is the mass-to-orbit capability.”

The images, and their warm reception – it has nearly 100 likes at the time of writing – demonstrate the enthusiasm of the space community during this emergent new space race. An image shared by Caldwell last month drew praise from the likes of “Everyday Astronaut” channel host Tim Dodd and NASASpaceFlight managing editor Chris BerginThis is a community that has grown alongside the likes of SpaceX and Blue Origin, companies that since the early 2000s have been drawing new attention to human spaceflight.

“The Starship project, and SpaceX in general, have helped me feel an excitement about space that I never felt while growing up,” Caldwell says. “I grew up in the Shuttle and ISS era, but I feel like I missed out on the excitement of exploration and innovation associated with the Apollo era.”

The SpaceX Starship Mk.1 prototype unveiled in September 2019.Loren Elliott/Getty Images News/Getty Images

When Musk unveiled the Starship in September 2017 under the name “BFR,” it brought this emergent new race to more ambitious highs. The fully-reusable rocket would be able to transport up to 100 people or 150 tons to space at a time. Its use of liquid oxygen and methane fuel would mean that astronauts could go to Mars, refuel with the planet’s resources, and return home. The ship, Musk explained, could help humanity transform into a multi-planetary species.

“The sci-fi futures that I had been promised – with huge space stations and colonies on other celestial bodies – might actually come true,” Caldwell says. “I am just so excited to see where this all goes.”

THE INVERSE ANALYSIS – Caldwell’s image shows the impressive size of SpaceX’s upcoming ship, but also demonstrates the passion of a community ready for a new era of spaceflight to begin in earnest. Eager to share ideas and concepts about the future of space travel, the community has helped communicate the ambitious plans at play in the new space race.

Musk’s timetable for the Starship’s Mars mission remains ambitious. Last month, he declared that he was aiming to keep to the planned 2022 launch for two cargo ships to the red planet. But even if SpaceX has to postpone its mission, it remains the sort of project that has inspired members of the public to once again feel excited about space.RELATED TAGS

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