SpaceX releases close-up video of historic rocket landing, new rocket specs
Rockets can now officially carry much bigger payloads after 'good performance' on recent launches
Want to know what SpaceX's historic reusable rocket landing on a barge would have looked like from way up close?
Well, now you can re-witness the event as viewed from the barge or "droneship" itself, from different angles, in a new 360-degree video posted by SpaceX late last week.
Following the successful launch of its unmanned Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station on April 8, SpaceX successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on an ocean platform for the first time. Four previous attempts failed.
SpaceX had previously released a view of the event captured from a distance by a chase plane.
It had also recorded the event from a camera on the rocket itself.
Onboard view of landing in high winds <a href="https://t.co/FedRzjYYyQ">pic.twitter.com/FedRzjYYyQ</a>—@SpaceX
A day after releasing the new video, SpaceX also announced upgraded capabilities for its rockets.
The Falcon 9 rocket, used on resupply missions to the space station, can now haul up to 22.8 tonnes into low-Earth orbit, up from 13.2. It will also be able to carry up to 8,300 kilograms into geosynchromous transfer orbit – a more distant orbit used for many communications satellites – and 4,020 kilograms to Mars.
And the new, bigger Falcon Heavy, set to debut later this year, will be able to launch 54.4 tonnes into low Earth orbit, 22.2 tonnes to geosynchronous transfer orbit, and 13.6 tonnes to Mars.
Falcon Heavy thrust will be 5.1M lbf at liftoff -- twice any rocket currently flying. It's a beast...—@elonmusk
Earlier this week, SpaceX announced plans to send its Dragon spacecraft to Mars as soon as 2018.
In response to questions on Twitter, Elon Musk confirms that those are the maximum payloads for its current generation of rockets, without any physical changes to the engine, but using a higher throttle setting than has been used up until now. "Good performance" during recent launches has allowed the company to be less conservative about its estimates of what the engine can handle, he added.
"It is just tougher than we thought," he tweeted.
<a href="https://twitter.com/lukealization">@lukealization</a> No physical changes to the engine. This thrust increase is based on delta qual tests. It is just tougher than we thought.—@elonmusk
However, he noted that those estimates are for non-reusable rockets – those with a reusable first stage can carry only 60 to 70 per cent of the maximum payload for a single-use rocket. The advantage of reusable rockets is that they could significantly lower the cost of sending equipment and people into space.
<a href="https://twitter.com/elonmusk">@elonmusk</a> Max performance numbers are for expendable launches. Subtract 30% to 40% for reusable booster payload.—@elonmusk
SpaceX's next launch will be Thursday at 1:21 a.m. ET, when its Falcon 9 rocket is set to blast off with a JCSAT-14 communications satellite.