What’s Ahead for Recovered SpaceX Falcon 9 Booster?

Falcon 9 first stage in pad 39A hangar at Kennedy Space Center following upright landing recovery from launch  on Dec. 21, 2015.  Credit: SpaceX

Now that SpaceX has successfully and safely demonstrated the upright recovery of their Falcon 9 booster that flew to the edge of space and back on Dec. 21 – in a historic first – the intertwined questions of how did it fare and what lies ahead for the intact first stage stands front and center.Well the booster is apparently no worse for the wear of the grueling ascent and descent and will live to fire up again one day in the not so distant future at a former shuttle launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, following thorough inspections by SpaceX engineers. “No damage found, ready to fire again,” reports SpaceX billionaire founder and CEO Elon Musk.“Falcon 9 back in the hangar at Cape Canaveral.”To prove his point about the recovered boosters viability, Musk has released new wide angle and up close photos of the first stage, pictured above and below.Musk’s space vision is to radically slash the costs of launching people and payloads to space by recovering and reflying rockets – built individually at great expense – rather than completely discarding them after a single use.Musk’s long term dream is to enable “A City on Mars” – as I reported earlier here. The Dec. 21 upright landing recovery of the intact Falcon 9 first stage counts as a game changing achievement in the history spaceflight on the once fantastical road to rocket reusability and “A City on Mars.”“I think quite vital to that goal is reusability of an orbit class rocket. It’s really fundamental to that goal, without which it would be unaffordable,” Musk said at a post launch and landing media telecon on Dec. 21.Furthermore, Musk indicated at the media briefing that the near term fate of the recovered booster would likely —> Read More