Coming Later This Month: SpaceX’s Big Reusable Rocket Launch


We’ve been documenting the slow, steady growth of SpaceX‘s Grasshopper program—Elon Musk‘s attempt to build a rocket that, after firing its cargo into space, would set itself down on the pad. Those test firings have been experiments. Now SpaceX plans to demonstrate reusable rocket tech in a real launch, but we’ll have to wait until the end of September to find out whether it works. 

SpaceX had planned a weekend launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The latest version of its Falcon 9 rocket, which in its previous iteration blasted the Dragon capsule off to the International Space Station, was to launch commercial satellites. Following the launch, SpaceX planned to guide the rocket’s first stage toward the Pacific Ocean, where it (hopefully) would splash down softly, allowing the company to recover and reuse the stage.

It won’t happen just yet. During a static-fire test of the new Falcon 9 on Thursday (in which the rocket test-fires its engines but stays on the platform), the rocket achieved full thrust but had some “anomalies” SpaceX needed to investigate, Musk tweeted. Early on Monday he updated the world via Twitter that SpaceX needed to perform another static fire test, and that the Air Force had dibs on the launch pads for testing ICBMs, so the SpaceX launch is delayed until Sept. 29 or 30.

Popular Mechanics

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