Recycling Reusable Rockets Makes Space Travel Cheaper, Disposable Space Ships Break Bank

A reusable space rocket successfully landed on a robotic drone ship this week in what some billionaires are hailing as a milestone in the mission to open space travel to the masses.

Elon Musk’s private space travel company SpaceX successfully retrieved a 23-story tall booster rocket that blasted off from Florida to resupply the International Space Station.

This was the fifth attempt to land the recyclable rocket and its successful test signals the start of a massive commercial SpaceX program that includes satellite delivery, Musk told the Express.

“The rocket landed instead of putting a hole in the ship or tipping over. We’re real excited about that.”

The reusable rocket was used to help deliver an inflatable guest room to the International Space Station along with 7,000 pounds worth of food and cargo to resupply the astronauts.

The inflatable guest room is actually a new invention called the Beam, or Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, designed by long-stay motel entrepreneur Robert Bigelow as an innovative way to live in space.

NASA hopes the Kevlar insulated module will be the first of many expandable manned habitats in space, ISS program manager, Kirk Shireman, told the Express. The cheap, easy to use, inflatable modules could be used as space hotels or even outfitted to land on the moon with the proper equipment.

“Humans will be using these kinds of modules as we move further and further off the planet and, actually, as we inhabit low Earth orbit.”

Bigelow, founder of Budget Suites, invested some $290 million of his fortune to develop the Beam, which he plans to replace with a giant space blimp complete with personal quarters and a zero-g toilet sometime in 2020, he told the Washington Post.

“We’re hoping this gets us a foot in the door. It’s not as though there isn’t a demand. We’ve had a lot of conversations with different countries, and we know they are potentially customers for us.”

The successful computerized landing of the SpaceX reusable rocket marked an important milestone in Musk’s quest to open space travel to the masses by developing cheap reusable rockets.

Space X already has plans to start launching reusable rockets every two weeks to fulfill satellite-delivery orders starting later this year.

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Four other computerized test landings didn’t go so well.

A reusable rocket successfully test landed on the drone ship last year, but it hit “too hard for survival,” Musk told The Guardian, while another was blown off course.

Another recyclable rocket designed by SpaceX exploded minutes after takeoff, completely destroying its million-dollar payload. Yet another suffered “rapid unscheduled disassembly,” meaning it blew up during landing.

With those problems behind him, Elon Musk now looks to the future, where he hopes his private SpaceX company will help pave the way for cheaper space travel available to the masses. NASA plans to continue using his recyclable rockets to supply the ISS and eventually establish a colony on the moon and launch a manned mission to Mars.

Musk’s rockets are designed to land on computerized drone ships, enabling them to save precious fuel while increasing landing safety. Fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, has created a competing spacecraft, but it’s smaller and only capable of landing on solid ground. His spacecraft aren’t used to resupply the ISS.

[Photo by John Raoux/AP Images]