Space X to attempt first ever vertical rocket landing

Posted on 6 Jan 2015 by Tim Brown

Update: The SpaceX launch, which was initially planned for Tuesday was postponed, initially pushed back to Friday morning (Jan. 9), and then today delayed a further 24 hours to Saturday morning.

The next SpaceX launch will have more people focused on the landing than the take off as the company attempts its first ever vertical rocket landing.

Space X will launch a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket, topped by a Dragon capsule carrying 2,350kg of supplies destined for the International Space Station.

If the Falcon 9 launches on Tuesday, the Dragon should link up with the space station on Thursday.

But SpaceX and its billionaire founder, Elon Musk, are hoping to make history by vertically landing the first stage of the rocket safely back on earth.

After the Falcon 9’s first stage finishes its main job, around three minutes after launch, the second stage rocket is set to separate and fire up its own rocket engine to power the remainder of the trip.

At that point, the first stage rocket is slated to relight its rocket engines and go through a complex series of manoeuvres to land itself safely down on a 90 metre long and 50 metre wide ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

“Nobody has ever tried that, to our knowledge,” Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX’s vice president of mission assurance, told reporters during a Monday briefing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

SpaceX has tested aspects of the manoeuvre before, resulting in a soft splashdown into water, but this will be the first time the company has tried setting the rocket stage down on a platform for retrieval and return to port.

“The odds of success are not great — perhaps 50 percent at best,” SpaceX said in a statement explaining the effort. “However, this test represents the first in a series of similar tests that will ultimately deliver a fully reusable Falcon 9 first stage.”