Getting a rocket back down to Earth safely and in one piece could revolutionize the cost of space exploration.
In an attempt to create the first fully reusable rocket, Elon Musk’s SpaceX will be launching one of its Falcon 9 rockets from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida tomorrow and then attempting to land the first stage on an unanchored floating barge in the Atlantic Ocean.
Currently, all such rockets, some 14 stories high with multimillion dollar engines, “end up as trash in the ocean after one launching,” according to The New York Times. It’s expensive trash, too. Musk estimates that a reusable rocket would cut the cost of spaceflight to a hundredth of its current price tag.
SpaceX places the odds of success for its first attempt at 50 percent. The company has already executed two successful soft water landings, but tomorrow’s precision landing on its “autonomous spaceport drone ship” is a much more difficult task. This is the first in a series of at least 12 similar tests projected for the year, and SpaceX hopes to eventually move on to recover and reuse the second stage.
Tuesday’s launch will not only be the initial reusability test, it will also send a Dragon capsule packed with food, supplies and scientific experiments to the International Space Station.
The SpaceX launch will be streamed live at Space.com via NASA TV beginning at 5 a.m. EST tomorrow. The launch is scheduled for 6:20 a.m., and may be visible to early risers along the Eastern seaboard.