SpaceX Adds Landing Legs to Falcon 9 Rocket for Next Launch
The private spaceflight company SpaceX is strapping landing gear onto the rocket that will launch the company's unmanned Dragon cargo capsule toward the International Space Station next month.Putting landing legs on the Falcon 9, is a step in SpaceX's quest to develop a fully reusable launch system.
But current plans don't call for the Falcon 9 to actually touch down on the legs after next month's liftoff, said SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk.
"Mounting landing legs (~60 ft span) to Falcon 9 for next month's Space Station servicing flight," Musk said Sunday (Feb. 23) via Twitter, where he posted a photo of the rocket. "However, F9 will continue to land in the ocean until we prove precision control from hypersonic thru subsonic regimes."
SpaceX holds a $1.6 billion contract to make 12 robotic supply runs to the space station for NASA using Dragon and the Falcon 9. The company has already completed two of these flights successfully; the March 16 flight will initiate contracted mission number three.
But the company's ambitions extend far beyond low-Earth orbit. Musk has said that he established SpaceX primarily to help humanity become a multiplanet species, and he hopes the company plays a prominent role in getting a Mars colony up and running.