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. But how exactly does this rocket work?
So How do SpaceX reusable rockets work?
Let’s get started.
SpaceX 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 with the second occurring in June 2017, that one only five months after the maiden flight of the booster.
The third attempt occurred in October 2017 with the mission SES-11 / EchoStar-105. The Second flights of refurbished first stages then became routine, with individual boosters – namely B1049 and B1051- having powered up to six missions as of October 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 (SpaceX Reusable Rockets)
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.
The reusable launch system technology is used for the first stage of Falcon 9. After stage separation, the booster flips around, an optional boost back burn is done to reverse its course then a reentry burns, controlling direction to arrive at the landing site, and a landing burn to affect the final low-altitude deceleration and touchdown.
Falcon 9 is a two-stage reusable rocket that is designed to launch satellites, and eventually crewed spacecraft, into orbit. 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.
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 stage comebacks to land safely while if it was the case of other NASA rocket there it would be thrown into the ocean because of lack of fuel. secondary stage ignites to boost the payload into Orbit. SpaceX’s second stage is unique. After it’s there in Orbit with the payload, it can be restarted again to create a deorbit burn to drive it back to land. while if it was other traditional rockets then it would be either left in Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) or in Lower Earth orbit (LEO) to decay.
The Falcon 9’s first stage has enough fuel to return to the landing platform. Three separate engines burn to put the spent stage on Rock on-course to reenter the atmosphere and slow down from 2,900 mph (4600 km/h) to 4.5 mph (7.2 km/h). The first section returns to Earth with the help of the thruster and fins.
But that’s when the tragedy happens, at the time of touchdown on an Offshore floating platform the booster ran out of hydraulic fluid for the steering fins, but SpaceX has improved now.
Cold-gas thrusters (flip):
The Falcon 9 first-stage booster is provided with small thrusters close to its ‘nose’ that vent nitrogen fuel. Shortly after separating from the second stage, a managed blast ‘flips’ the rocket to organize it for its return to the ground.
Grid Wings (Steering):
Grid wings have a jagged appearance of a plastic tennis racket, except each one the size of your kitchen table. Arranged in an “X” configuration, the grid fins control the descending rocket’s lift vector once the vehicle has returned to the atmosphere to enable a much more precise landing location.
The first stage, after starting its back boost back burn, rules over three engines to slow down its speed, these heat-resistant fins move out of the sides of the booster. They make minute moves to help propel the rocket towards the landing pad – a bit of how skydivers can change direction with small gestures of their hands.
Falcon 9 Engines:
The power behind the Falcon 9 is the Merlin engine. Merlin is a family of SpaceX rocket 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.
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 to 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.
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.
Like different rockets, the Falcon 9 launches from sites 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.
Started in January 2015, SpaceX deployed stationary floating platforms a few hundred miles offshore along a rocket trajectory; Those converted eagles were called autonomous spaceport drone ships.
On April 8, 2016, The Falcon 9 Flight 23 booster back and re-entry maneuver in the Atlantic Ocean. Nine minutes after liftoff, the booster landed vertically on the drone ship “of course I Still Love You” 300 km off the Florida coast, achieving a long-sought milestone for a SpaceX reusable rockets development program.
How Many Times Can SpaceX Reuse The Falcon 9?
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. So, wait for the future.
Credit: Cosmos magazine
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