SpaceX nails two launches and barge landings in one weekend

Your bike ride/Glastonbury/hookup with a hottie looks a bit less epic now, eh?

No matter what you did over the weekend, you'll struggle to top Elon Musk's after his space trucking venture launched 11 satellites atop two rockets, both of which stuck perfect landings on barges.

Mission “BulgariaSat-1” kicked off the fun with a Friday launch of a geosynchronous satellite that will improve telecommunications in Bulgaria. The mission re-used a Falcon 9 lifter, the second time SpaceX has done so, and then stuck the landing on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean.

Musk wasn't sure that would be possible because, as he Tweeted the mission saw the Falcon “... experience its highest ever reentry force and heat” . “Good chance rocket booster doesn't make it back,” Musk said. But back it came, in the following condition.

(“Crush core” is a honeycomb of aluminium used to absorb shocks.)

On Sunday, SpaceX was at it again, this time with ten smaller satellites for Iridium's new constellation atop another Falcon 9 kitted out with what Musk called “larger & significantly upgraded hypersonic grid fins. Single piece cast & cut titanium. Can take reentry heat with no shielding.”

The rocket and the new fins worked: the sats are up and the rocket is down on SpaceX's Pacific barge. Musk is happy!

This matters because SpaceX has 56 more missions scheduled and Musk is all about re-usability to keep the cost of launches low, in part because he's in business and in part because he thinks lots of cheap launches of re-usable kit will get us to Mars before something catastrophic happens to Earth. ®

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