Reusable rockets can frequent the journey to space without starting the work from ground level
The circular economy is not just limited to the world. Since the triumphant return of Falcon 9 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, in 2015, the space industry has expanded its wings to embrace reusable rockets for explorations. The emotional moment for hundreds of SpaceX engineers and technicians marked a new era of possibilities.
Humankind has been able to launch rockets into space since the creation of V2 in Germany in 1942. Manned space flight took another 19 years when cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin successfully orbited the earth in April 1961. Further, the ignited space race between the United States and Russia attracted global interest in the industry. Researchers and scientists started working on sending humans to space. Dogs and monkeys were the initial trial travellers who explored the outer region. Soon, humans started exploring various bases in space with extended space programs. The earth went through a lot of natural and humanmade calamities later, which resulted in climate change. One of the major factors for climate change was carbon emission. Space rockets contribute a part to the carbon footprint. To change the routine and minimize the carbon emission and cost, researchers started working on reusable rockets. Reusable rockets can frequent the journey to space without starting the work from ground level.
Frontrunners in reusable rocket
Falcon 9 by SpaceX is the first reusable rocket that reached the ground safely. Falcon 9 is a reusable, two-stage rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX for the reliable and safe transport of people and payloads into Earth orbit and beyond. Reusability allows SpaceX to refly the most expensive parts of the rocket, which drives down the cost of space access. Falcon 9 has engaged in 97 total launches, 58 total landings, and 41 reflown rocket journeys. Following the Falcon 9’s success, SpaceX aims to launch Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) with 100% reusable materials. BFR is planned to be available around the mid-2020s with potential for various applications such as launching satellites, and carrying cargo and crew to space stations, the moon, and mars.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ space venture Blue Origin is also promoting reusability. After the successful launch of Falcon 9, Blue Origin, United Launch Alliance (ULA), and Northrop Grumman received a reported US$2 billion from the US Air Force to develop rockets to launch for military satellites. The hot mission planned around reusability includes everything from Mars tours and deep-space exploration to small-satellite launches. Blue Origin launched a reusable rocket New Shepard and landed it successfully. The rocket is a fully reusable vertical take-off and vertical landing craft that can deliver people or payloads to just above the Karman Line.
In 2019, ArianeGroup announced a partnership with French Space Agency CNES called ArianeWorks to accelerate innovation by developing a next-generation, low-cost, and potentially reusable rocket first stage named Themis. Besides, ArianeGroup is also developing Prometheus on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA), a low-cost reusable engine demonstrator running on liquid oxygen and methane, which will be ready for launch in 2030.
The Future Ahead
The space industry is taking baby steps towards transition. The plans are well laid, and companies are working on getting investments to take off the work. For reusable rockets, it’s possible to achieve the first-stage reusability goal. In the upcoming years, scientists, researchers, and engineers will focus on achieving the second stage of reusability.