Press Release

Congratulations to SpaceX on an Incredible Milestone

By SpaceRef Editor
December 21, 2015
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SpaceX accomplished an incredible achievement this evening when the first stage of its upgraded Falcon 9 rocket landed safely on solid ground in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

About three minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9’s second stage separated in the upper atmosphere and went on to place 11 communications satellites, made by the Sierra Nevada Corporation, into an orbit 400 kilometers high for ORBCOMM. The vehicle’s first stage adjusted its trajectory, reentered the atmosphere and performed a soft, precision landing. This marks the first time in history any part of an orbital rocket has achieved a land landing.

“It is clear that all of the time and hard work SpaceX spent upgrading the Falcon 9 paid off in this return to flight,” said Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. “Through a year of hard lessons learned, SpaceX’s December return to flight and successful planned landing of its first stage, just six months after the June mishap, reminds us of this industry’s best qualities: agility, innovation and perseverance. I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store for us.”

Traditionally, the first stage of a rocket is disposed of after launch, removing an opportunity to reuse valuable hardware. But by landing and recovering the first stage, SpaceX has an opportunity to refurbish and reuse the first stage on future launches. The Commercial space industry is looking to normalize a business cycle of reusability in an effort to drive down launch costs and make spaceflight more accessible.

Many actors within the commercial space industry are working on making reusability viable. Masten Space Systems has been perfecting similar landing techniques for years with its fleet of low-altitude launch vehicles and landers. Also, in late November, Blue Origin’s New Shepherd vehicle touched down after a high-altitude suborbital test flight. While both the Falcon 9 and New Shepherd used their first stage engines to perform a soft landing, their respective mission objectives, trajectories and technical challenges are different. Because the SpaceX’s vehicle was designed to place a constellation of satellites in orbit, the Falcon 9’s first stage flew at significantly greater speeds and more than double the altitude of what New Shepherd reached last month. SpaceX’s return from an orbital launch marks the next technical step forward in the march towards the long-term goal of complete reusability.

About the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

The mission of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) is to promote the development of commercial human spaceflight, pursue ever-higher levels of safety, and share best practices and expertise throughout the industry. The Commercial Spaceflight Federation’s member companies, which include commercial spaceflight developers, operators, spaceports, suppliers, and service providers, are creating thousands of high-tech jobs nationwide, working to preserve American leadership in aerospace through technology innovation, and inspiring young people to pursue careers in science and engineering.

For more information please visit www.commercialspaceflight.org or contact Jane Kinney at jane@commercialspaceflight.org or at (469) 879 – 9503.

SpaceRef staff editor.