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This year, SpaceX made us believe in reusable rockets.



At the beginning In 2018, Elon Musk predicted that SpaceX will implement 30 launches. The goal seemed far-fetched; Among other reasons, some of these flights were planned for Falcon Heavy, which at that time had not yet flown. Indeed, the company has not reached this figure. But the 21 launches that he carried out in 2018 are still a staggering achievement for a 16-year-old company.

Developing its previous impulse – eight launches in 2016 and 18 – in 2017 – SpaceX reusable rocket technology went out of the concept verification stage and became the basis of a growing fleet of rocket-tested missiles. Although the company launched its first rocket in 2015, SpaceX took until 2017 to re-use its first accelerator. This year, landings have become almost commonplace, and engineers have said goodbye to yesterday's “moderately reusable Falcons”, opening the era of more capable “Falcons”, dubbed “Block 5”.

An improved version of the company's flagship rocket has proven itself well since the first payload was lifted – a communications satellite for the country of Bangladesh. According to SpaceX, modifications (which include improved engines, a more durable interstage engine, fins from a titanium grille and a new thermal protection system) will allow each unit 5 to fly 10 or more times before light reconstruction is required, and up to 100 times before resigning. This year, all but two of the 14 rockets that SpaceX attempted to land were stuck in a landing.

After this first flight in May, Musk announced that somewhere next year, SpaceX would launch and land the same booster 5 twice within 24 hours. To this end, the company showed that it managed to reuse the same amplifier three times; he also opened a new landing site, which should help reduce processing time after launch.

Another long-standing goal was to debut his heavy rocket, the Falcon Heavy. Initially, it was estimated that he should have flown in 2013, and Falcon Heavy made its first flight on February 6th. After sending the Tesla cherry-red roadster (complete with the Starman pilot) on a journey past Mars, the three Falcon Heavy cores – each with its own Falcon 9 rocket – returned to Earth. Two accelerators worked in perfect synchronization on the LZ-1 and LZ-2 assigned to SpaceX landing zones at Cape Canaveral. However, the machine gunner's central accelerator did not hit the target landing point on the waiting unmanned ship and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.

This was for Falcon Heavy in 2018; his next two flights were postponed until next year. However, this test flight paid off for SpaceX. Surprisingly, the Air Force not only certified Falcon Heavy for combat loads, but also signed a contract with a heavyweight for the first major contract: the AFSPC-52 mission. Under this contract, valued at $ 130 million, SpaceX will deploy an Air Force satellite in space around 2020.

Not all negotiations went their own way. SpaceX missed out on a $ 2 billion government contract to build equipment that could ultimately trigger the national security payload. The money eventually went to three competitors: ULA, Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman.

The company also retreated from some of its goals. During a press briefing on the Sokol-Heavy flight, Elon Musk announced that the company's plans to send passengers around the Moon on the Falcon-Heavy will be canceled. So what happened to the people who booked the tickets? This answer will not be revealed until a few months later, Musk announced that Yusaku Maezawa was a mysterious billionaire who first of all reserved both places in the Machine Gun Falcon. Now Maezawa was to be the first buyer of the next-generation SpaceX rocket – the BFR (or Big Falcon Rocket). From the outset, the BFR (consisting of two parts: a rocket and a spacecraft capable of carrying hundreds of people into space), considered an interplanetary vehicle, may be more suitable for this mission than the Falcon Heavy, which allows the weightlifter to rake sweeter government contracts.

In another turn, Musk showed that Mazawa would not be alone; he will take half a dozen artists with him on an epic journey around the moon. Although the rocket and spacecraft are still far from the flight, Musk calculated that a walk around the moon could happen as early as 2023.

However, his first flights with the crew can take place in 2019. Today, each SpaceX Dragon capsule transports only cargo to the International Space Station and back. It is expected that this will change next year, when NASA's “Commercial Crew” program will launch its astronauts, the first of which has flown from American land since 2011. The first spacecraft, the Dragon Crew, was originally scheduled to take off in November as part of a flight test with uncontrolled traction, but this delayed (mainly due to movement on the ISS) suffered a flight no earlier than January 17. If everything goes according to plan, a pair of astronauts will fly to the station for two weeks somewhere in the first half of the year.

Next year we can also see how SpaceX managed to catch the fairing, also known as the rocket nose cone. A boat named Mr. Stephen last year joined the fleet restoring the company. Mr. Stephen, in essence, the mobile catcher's mitten, is equipped with a giant network designed to catch fairings when they land. Each fairing costs about $ 6 million — one-tenth of the Falcon’s total — and has historically been a one-off component. But as part of its reuse strategy, SpaceX wants to take them away before they get into the ocean. To this end, engineers equipped each fairing with tools to return to Earth, deploy a parachute, before gently touching the ocean or, perhaps, soon, Mr. Steven’s stretched net.

Final grade: A


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