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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

It’s a Falcon! Run, Cows, Run!

By Phil Plait

SpaceX just released video of another successful flight test of its reusable Falcon F9R rocket. The F9R reached a height of 1,000 meters (well over half a mile) and deployed steerable fins that will be used to help direct the rocket as it relands.

The first half of the video is from a camera mounted on the top of the rocket; the fins deploy at the 1:11 mark. Interestingly they aren’t solid; that saves weight.

The second half of the video starts at 2:20 and cracked me up. Taken from some distance away, you can see a herd of cows in the foreground get up and move in a hurry once the sound wave reaches them.

This is all very cool, and applies cutting-edge tech to some older ideas. I have to wonder though. The ultimate purpose here is to be able to reuse the first stage of a Falcon rocket. That means having to carry extra fuel when launching and save it for landing once the second stage is away and headed to space. Fuel is the heaviest part of any rocket and to lift that extra fuel you need to carry extra extra fuel, if you see what I mean (that leads to the famous rocket equation).

I would assume Elon Musk knows what he’s doing, and the cost of launching that extra fuel is more than offset by being able to reuse the booster. Given his track record I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

As it happens, there is a SpaceX launch scheduled for later today, Friday, June 20, at 22:08 UTC (6:08 p.m. EDT) to lift six Orbcomm OG2 communication satellites to orbit. This launch has been delayed from a previous date and has a backup date of Saturday. SpaceX has info on the payload and will carry the launch live on their video feed.

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