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SpaceX successfully launched its upgraded Falcon 9 rocket today, putting its first commercial payload into orbit.
They also attempted to restart both the first and second stages after separation to test the possibility of eventually getting them back to Earth undamaged.
Two post-mission burns of the boost stage were attempted. The first, involving three of the rocket’s nine first-stage Merlin 1D engines, was successful in slowing its descent into the atmosphere. But SpaceX was unable to carry out a second burn of a single engine after the stage went into a spin and ran out of fuel due to what Musk described as a centrifuge effect. The second burn was intended to further slow the first stage’s descent, and because it did not take place as planned, the stage hit the ocean hard, Musk said. Parts of the first stage had been recovered, he added.
The restart of the second stage never occurred due to what Elon Musk called “minor” issues.
The successes today of both Falcon 9 and Cygnus once again demonstrate the advantages of allowing private companies the freedom to design and build rockets they then own and can sell on the open market. The cost to get these space vehicles built was far lower than anything NASA has built in decades, and both got finished much faster as well.
Getting into space can only get cheaper and faster from here.