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How do SpaceX reusable rockets work?

With the Evolution of reusable rockets, space travel became even easier and cheape

When Elon Musk’s SpaceX – short for Space Exploration Technologies – got into the rocket game, it promised reusable, low launch costs and easy access to space. Over the years, the company has consistently taken steps to make good on that promise, thanks mainly to the success of its Falcon 9 rocket.

So How do SpaceX reusable rockets work? Let’s get started.

Reusable Rockets

The SpaceX Reusable Launch System Development Program is a privately funded program to develop new technologies for an orbital launch system that can be reused multiple times, similar to aircraft reusability. SpaceX has been developing technologies for many years to facilitate the complete and rapid reuse of SpaceX vehicles.

The program was publicly introduced in 2011. SpaceX first achieved a profitable touchdown and restoration of the first phase in December 2015. The first re-flight of the first phase landed in March 2017 in June 2017. Only five months after Booster’s first flight. The third try occurred in October 2017 with the mission SES-11 / EchoStar-105. The second flight of the refurbished early stage then turned a routine, with boosters with five missions by March 2020.

As of 2020, SpaceX is developing Starship, a fully reusable two-stage vehicle, intended to support missions to the Moon and Mars, and eventually replace Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy for satellite delivery and human transport. Also, it could be used for point-to-point transportation on Earth.

Falcon 9

The Falcon 9 is developed by aerospace company SpaceX, meaning it is now possible to reuse the first stage of the rocket by flying it safely back to Earth.

Bangabandhu Satellite 1 Mission 42025498972
© SpaceX

According to Elon Musk, nearly every piece of the Falcon ought to be reused over 100 times. Heat shields and some different objects ought to be reused over ten times earlier than a substitute.

After all, how does Falcon 9 do this?

Some highlights of Falcon 9:

  • Autonomous controllers and sensors are used to carry out propulsive landings.

  • Parachutes to cut back speeds after coming into the surroundings    

  • Airbags to soak up the shock when touchdown on a tough floor

  • Autonomous flatboats working as touchdown platforms for rockets performing vertical propulsive landings at sea

  • Special function ships geared up with giant nets to catch smaller rocket components like fairings.  

Flightplan of Falcon 9:

The Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket. The first stage booster’s nine engines maintain lift-off and take the rockets to a peak of about 100 km – only on the sting of house. The second stage right here detaches and fires its single-engine to carry the payload into orbit. The first section returns to Earth. It is provided with small thrusters close to its ‘nose’ that launch nitrogen fuel. Shortly after separating from the second stage, a managed blast ‘flips’ the rocket to organize it for its return to the bottom.

It is 69.9 meters lengthy, weighs 549,054 kg, and at take-off generates 7,607 kilowatts of the throttle, which may ship 22,800 kg to orbit across the Earth. Alternatively, it could ship 8,300 kg to Mars, though it has not but launched something for the Red Planet. However, Mars is the last word aim of SpaceX – Elon Musk has made no secret of the truth that he desires to land people on our planetary neighbor.


The power behind the Falcon 9 is the Merlin engine. Merlin is a family of SpaceX rockets engines developed by SpaceX for its Falcon 1, Falcon 9, and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles. Merlin engines use a rocket grade kerosene (RP-1) and liquid oxygen as rocket propellants in a gas-generator power cycle. The Merlin engine was initially designed for recovery and reuse. The rocket assembles nine of these engines simultaneously in the first stage, while the second stage consists of a single Merlin that is modified to fire in the vacuum of space.

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© SpaceX (Merlin Engines)

At a typical Falcon 9 launch, the first stage engine burns for 162 seconds, and the second stage engine burns for 397 seconds. The engine of the Merlin 1 from the Falcon 9’s first-stage Booster gives 600 tonnes of thrust to the rocket, which is required for lift-off.

The Merlin engine is exceptionally highly effective and one of the environment-friendly engines ever constructed. Each engine can change its angle of thrust, to manage pitch, to place the yaw and roll throughout the ascent and on the descent. On different rockets, if an engine fails throughout the launch, the misplaced thrust can destroy the potential for the payload efficiently reaching orbit. But the Falcon 9 is designed so that two of the 9 Merlin engines fail within the first stage, and the launch isn’t affected. Healthy engines can burn for a long time by lifting the sluggish engine to avoid wasting the mission.

“If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred. A fully reusable vehicle has never been done before. That really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionize access to space.”
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX.

Landing legs:

Four legs, manufactured from robust, light-weight carbon fiber, are positioned earlier than a touchdown. Each leg has a shock-absorbing system to soak up the pressure of influence. Particularly for warm landings, a core of non-reusable materials crushes on the result – how an automobile is designed to crumple to soak up impact and shield these.

Drone barge:

Like different rockets, the Falcon 9 launches from websites close to the ocean, so when the first-stage Booster falls again to Earth, there may be nothing beneath it, however beneath the open sea. While it might be technically attainable for the Falcon 9 to fly again to its launchpad, doing so would make rocket gas costlier. It may be very low-cost to touch the ocean, after which ship the rocket too. The touchdown barges are platforms in regards to the dimension of a soccer area, geared up with their very own suite of sensors which are in fixed communication with the rocket.


Musk predicts that whereas the Falcon 9 incorporates expertise to make its second-stage rocket reusable, with the primary stage and its Dragon capsule, the launch will likely be 100 occasions cheaper. By making all of its rocket levels reusable, the corporate can also be getting ready for its subsequent section – Super Heavy Rocket and Starship – that may allow transportation and missions to Mars.

Although SpaceX has not launched actual figures, a spokesperson stated the fee to refurbish and reuse the phase-one rocket is “less than half” the price of constructing a brand new one. SpaceX ultimately plans to chop the turnaround time to only 24 hours.

Credit: Cosmos magazine



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