Recently, I’ve observed how the multistage rocket system probably isn’t going anywhere and that the best approach might be to embrace it and make it work as effectively as possible. I’ve noted the appeal of VTOL (vertical take off and landing) rocket.
Well, it turns out SpaceX was way ahead of me on both points. They have a rocket stage that will return to earth, and is designed to eventually land back at the launch pad!
SpaceX, Elon Musk’s poster child of the commercial space travel revolution, is about to attempt the first ever soft landing of a heavy space launch vehicle. On March 16, SpaceX mission CRS-3 will lift off from Cape Canaveral on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. Usually, the massive primary stage of the rocket would fall into the Atlantic ocean after launch — but in this case, it will sprout some metal legs and use what’s left of its rocket fuel to slowly return to Earth. This is perhaps the single most important step in SpaceX’s stated goal of reducing the cost of space travel by a factor of 10, eventually leading to the human colonization of Mars.