With SpaceX’s first rocket launch last night since the loss of SpaceX CRS-7 on June 28, 2015, not only did the vehicle successfully deploy 11 satellites in orbit, but it safely returned to Earth and soft landed. This is an entirely new capability. Up until now, rockets in the space age burned up on re-entry. They did not soft land to be used again.
Below is a video of the soft landing, what success looks like, and the energy associated with this new era of commercial space.
Milestone events now seem to be coming weekly to monthly. In November Blue Origin was first to soft land a rocket back on Earth after it had gone to space (to an altitude of at least 100 km), though it was a sub-orbital flight. For SpaceX this was an operational flight to deploy satellites in orbit.
In the context of history, I truly believe that 100 years from now historians are going to look back and recognize that ours is the moment in time when the human race truly became spacefaring, with access to space not just for a select few astronauts. With new commercial spacecraft and spaceports now coming on line, spaceflight to low Earth orbit in the next decades will provide access to citizens. We are now living through the same commercial expansion that was seen in aviation after Charles Lindbergh’s successful solo non-stop transatlantic crossing in 1927. His stunning achievement galvanized the world and paved the way for commercial aviation that we now all enjoy. In terms of commercial space, our children will be able to first go on sub-orbital flights, then orbital, then around the Moon. Hotels in low Earth orbit are coming, and those of you that venture to the high frontier will see for themselves the curvature of Earth, the thin veil of our atmosphere, and that we share one world and a common existence. How will that new common perspective change how humanity views itself?
It is so very important to say to all the students, teachers, families and stakeholders across the SSEP communities that you are all part of this remarkable history. SSEP is enabled by commercial space through NanoRacks’ Space Act Agreement with NASA, and through ferry flights to ISS on both SpaceX and Orbital-ATK vehicles. We are living this history. We lost the SSEP Mission 7 Odyssey payload of experiments with the explosion of the SpaceX CRS-7 vehicle in June. But true to what researchers do when the real world throws you a curveball, all M7 student flight teams are reconstituting their experiments and readying for re-launch on SpaceX CRS-8 in early 2016 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL. Last night’s successful launch means we are back in business. Go SSEP M7 Odyssey II! Stand by M8 and M9 teams for SpaceX CRS-9 and CRS-10. And for those communities working to come aboard Mission 10 starting on February 26, we did promise –
real spaceflight all the time
Watch the official and exceptional SpaceX video recording this historic feat on the SpaceX website http://www.spacex.com/webcast
The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in the U.S., and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally. It is enabled through a strategic partnership with NanoRacks LLC, working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. SSEP is the first pre-college STEM education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an on-orbit commercial space venture.
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), and Subaru of America, Inc., are U.S. National Partners on the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. Magellan Aerospace is a Canadian National Partner on the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program.