SpaceX conducted its first crewed mission on Saturday, May 30, a special Falcon 9 rocket featuring NASA’s retro ‘worm’ logo, marked the return of human spaceflight to the United States, after nearly a decade. Falcon 9 lifted off from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying NASA Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft on a voyage to the International Space Station (ISS).
The successful launch took the Dragon capsule to orbit. About nine minutes after lift off, the Falcon 9 rocket’s first-stage booster returned from space with the power of it’s nine Merlin engines. It conducted a controlled vertical landing on an autonomous drone ship called Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY), situated in the Atlantic Ocean. Rocket landings are incredible to watch!
SpaceX ignited a new era in American spaceflight as Dragon docked to the ISS orbiting laboratory on May 31, safely transporting Behnken and Hurley. It took the company 18 years to be prepared to launch astronauts to space. The founder of SpaceX Elon Musk was overcome with emotion upon the mission’s success –“…Getting astronauts to orbit after almost a decade, I think this is something that should really get people [closed fist to the chest] right in the heart – of anyone who has any spirit of exploration…” Musk said, “I am really quite overcome with emotion on this day, its kinda’ hard to talk frankly. Its been 18 years working towards this goal.”
Three days after deploying NASA astronauts, the 15-story-tall rocket booster returned to Florida’s Space Coast on Tuesday, June 2, aboard OCISLY. The drone ship is about the size of a football field. “After launching Astronauts Behnken and Hurley to orbit on Crew Dragon, Falcon 9 landed on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship and returned to Port Canaveral,” SpaceX announced, alongside a collection of photographs about the Falcon 9 rocket booster that lifted humans into orbit for the first time. The rocket is filled with scorches and burns from reentering across Earth’s atmosphere. The company’s serial number for this historic rocket is B1058.
SpaceX is a leader in aerospace innovation. It is currently the only aerospace company that has successfully achieved recovering orbital-class rockets. Overall, SpaceX has returned from space a total of 53 Falcon 9 first-stage boosters. The company aims to reduce the price of spaceflight by recovering rockets to reuse them again. A total of 23 boosters have flown a second mission, including 2 pairs as Falcon Heavy side-boosters, 6 boosters have been reused on 3 missions, 4 boosters have re-flown a 4th mission, and only 1 rocket has flown 5 times. Engineers’ goal is to reuse a particular Falcon rocket 10 times. It is unclear if B1058 will be reused on future missions, its likely, this rocket booster could be set up as a monument, due to the fact it is the first Falcon 9 that lifted humans to orbit. SpaceX is working on developing a rocket recovery system that will long-term significantly decrease operational and manufacturing costs. The Falcon 9 rocket is capable of being 80% reusable. Musk would eventually like to develop a rocket that is capable of being 100% reusable as aircraft.