SpaceX will attempt to land Falcon 9 booster December 9th on a floating platform and then reuse it
Elon Musk spoke at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department's 2014 Centennial celebration. The Symposium was featuring some of the most illustrious names in aerospace, and offering their perspectives on what lies ahead.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said his company will make a first attempt to land the booster stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a floating platform during the upcoming ISS resupply mission. If the attempt is successful, the company plans to refurbish and reuse the booster stage, making spaceflight history and paving the way for a significant reduction in the cost of access to space.
Propellant only makes up a tiny percentage (in the case of a Falcon 9 rocket, about 0.3 percent) of the cost of the craft, so being able to reuse all the hardware for multiple flights could potentially slash the cost of spaceflight by a factor of 10 or more.
SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that, on the fifth resupply mission planned for December 9th, the reusable rocket program is ready to go one step further: instead of a soft water landing, the first stage will attempt for the first time to propulsively land on a floating platform in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
"Before we boost back to the launch site and try to land there, we need to show that we can land with precision over and over again," said Musk. "So for the upcoming launch we've got a chance of landing on a floating platform. We have a huge platform that is being constructed at a shipyard in Louisiana right now which is 300 feet long by 170 feet wide (90 by 50 meters)."
"If we land on that [platform], I think we'll be able to refly that booster," Musk continued. "It's probably not more of a 50 percent chance of landing it on the platform [on the first try], but there's a lot of launches that will occur over the next year, at least a dozen, so I think it's quite likely, probably 80 or 90 percent likely, that one of those flights will be able to land and refly."