Burning Right Grid Fin during “HOT” reentry of Falcon 9 first stage. SpaceX News.
The SpaceX reusable launch system development program is a privately funded program to develop a set of new technologies for an orbital launch system that may be reused many times in a manner similar to the reusability of aircraft. The company SpaceX is developing the technologies over a number of years to facilitate full and rapid reusability of space launch vehicles. The project’s long-term objectives include returning a launch vehicle first stage to the launch site in minutes and to return a second stage to the launch pad following orbital realignment with the launch site and atmospheric reentry in up to 24 hours. SpaceX’s long term goal is that both stages of their orbital launch vehicle will be designed to allow reuse a few hours after return.
The program was publicly announced in 2011. SpaceX first achieved a successful landing and recovery of a first stage in December 2015, the first re-flight of a landed first stage occurred in March 2017.
The reusable launch system technology was developed and initially used for the first stages of the Falcon family of rockets. The process involves flipping the booster around, a boostback burn to slow the rocket, a reentry burn, controlling direction to arrive at the landing site and a landing burn to effect the final low-altitude deceleration and touchdown. The reusable technology will be extended to the first stage and to both upper stages of the ITS launch vehicle for the Interplanetary Transport System and is considered paramount to the plans Elon Musk is championing to enable the settlement of Mars. Initial test flights of an Interplanetary Transport System vehicle are expected no earlier than 2020
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