Amazing - SpaceX Sends Rocket up and then Lands it Exactly Where it Launched

By Tony Rizzo August 16, 2013

Elon Musk may be making some noise this week with the release of his Hyperloop 800 MPH train concept (30 minutes from San Francisco to Los Angeles), but if you ask us, the real and far more interesting news this week is that his space travel venture operation - SpaceX - continues to move rocket technology forward in very interesting and sometimes amazing ways. What has SpaceX done now?

For the most part it has managed to turn good old fashioned 1950s science fiction into reality. We've all watched plenty of those old space movies - the ones where the rocket ship takes off, flies around and then somehow manages to land itself while remaining completely vertical and ready to take off again. Our favorite movie along these lines has long been the 1953 classic, Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, in which their spaceship does exactly this.

Fast forward almost exactly 60 years later to this week, and science fiction once again turns into reality. Can you tell in the image below if the rocket ship is taking off or landing?

Perhaps you are thinking it is a trick question. But you would be wrong. In fact, the image above shows the SpaceX reusable Grasshopper rocket - which happens to stand over ten stories tall (this isn't a little toy concept rocket - it is a real "spaceship" rocket) - in the process of landing. SpaceX sent the rocket up roughly 820 feet or so (or 250 meters), executed several seemingly simple maneuvers at the peak of the flight and then brought it back to the launch site.

When we initially viewed the video we were in fact anticipating that the rocket would somehow find its way back to the launch site in a horizontal position. We were amazed to see it actually move backwards following the peak of its flight, return to the launch site and actually land in its vertical position. Making this happen seems almost ridiculously simple on the video yet it reflects an enormously complex operation to pull it off. Here is the actual video (And no, it isn't merely the case of watching something take off then simply adding some reverse footage to make it appear as if it had landed!).

Musk founded SpaceX back in 2002, and the company was originally known as the Space Exploration Technologies Corp. It has developed a business designed to resupply the International Space Station, and has made two successful resupply flights to date for NASA.

For SpaceX, the immediate Holy Grail is to develop a fully reusable rocket that can get to the space station, fly back, land on its launching pad and then merely require a refueling to take off again. Ultimately, to make the business truly profitable, the company will look to develop transportation services not only to meet the relatively small requirements of the space station but also for the around the clock, global needs of Earth - for those times when it absolutely has to get there in 30 minutes or less - even if it is, say, a New York to Australia trek.

Reusability, vertical landings and the ability to refuel and take off again in short order (well, in relatively short order) is crucial to establishing the means to a revenue stream that will also generate profits. SpaceX is clearly on the path to making this a reality. It is amazing.

Of course we aren't really at a point in time when humans can actually get on board and take off and eventually land somewhere. That remains science fiction, but the future on this front is much closer to reality than most people probably think. In the meantime, for those among us who can't wait, at least we still have Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (the entire movie is available on YouTube).

Edited by Blaise McNamee

TechZone360 Senior Editor

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