SpaceX has managed to successfully land its fifth rocket in seven months, getting so good at it now that it’s almost ceasing to be an impressive party trick.
If it’s not clear why that’s special, well, it’s for two reasons.
The first is that until SpaceX managed to park a rocket, they were very much a one-use product.
That’s fine for things like toothpicks or paper towels, but given each Falcon 9 rocket costs around $60 million, getting more than one use makes the economics of space travel much more affordable, which is essential for our progress and founder Elon Musk’s aim of dying on Mars.
Landing a rocket is really, really hard. As WaitButWhy puts it, what SpaceX has now achieved five times is like “firing a pencil over the top of a skyscraper and trying to land it on a shoe box on the ground — on a windy day.”
SpaceX crashes a rocket onto its own drone ship - putting a swift end to its landing streak
In any case, the purpose of this launch was a resupply run on NASA’s behalf for the International Space Station, and it’s due to arrive in two days time.
The contents will help to support over 250 scientific experiments due to take place aboard the ISS, and contains a number of interesting articles, most intriguingly of all a DNA sequences.
Astronaut DNA is usually sequenced back on Earth, which takes months, so being able to do so from the comfort of their own space station is an interesting development. The custom built Biomolecule Sequencer is designed to demonstrate that “DNA sequencing is feasible in an orbiting spacecraft,” and will identify microbes, diagnose diseases and understand crew member health.
It could also “potentially help detect DNA-based life elsewhere in the solar system,” according to NASA, but let’s just get it to the ISS first.
That’s not all that’s on board. As CNET points out, astronauts will also sign for a Phase Change Heat Exchanger and three dimensional solar cell. That should keep them busy until the next resupply mission next month.