A sigh of relief for SpaceX, and anyone interested in privatised spaceflight following a successful launch from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, following a delay on Saturday which was put down to a technical glitch.
The Dragon supply ship, which will dock with the international space station, successfully reached orbit to reported cheers from the control room. Of course, this follows September’s other technical glitch, which saw a SpaceX rocket explode on the launchpad, and meant the fledgeling space exploration business, focused its considerable efforts on safety and rocket-return to avoid another public relations disaster.
The importance of the solid rocket boosters returning to earth intact, cannot be overstated. SpaceX as a commercial business, is reliant from a financial standpoint, on rockets being recycled quickly and easily to avoid costly overhauls, which would mean that as a commercial enterprise, SpaceX would be far less viable. In this instance, the solid rocket boosters returned to earth with pinpoint accuracy, landing on a purpose-built platform in the middle of the ocean.
While the September explosion was a disaster for SpaceX from a media standpoint, the response has been one of measured caution – in stark contrast to its original ethos of getting into space and back as quickly as possible, showing how simple it was when complex rocket science is commercialised. Space X, following the explosion, chose to conduct non-newsworthy tests, such as non-launches – firing the boosters on the launchpad without taking off – and increased laboratory testing of various components to ensure maximum safety and reliability.
It’s likely that SpaceX has earned additional respect from, not only those in the space exploration community, but far more importantly the general public who can now look at SpaceX and its contemporaries as viable alternatives to government entities such as NASA, rather than rugged – albeit well funded – startups.
In addition, the credibility that a SpaceX craft docking with the international space station will offer, cannot be put into a dollar amount, although the onus to do just that will no doubt be put on SpaceX’s long-suffering finance team.
Regardless, the future of space flight looks just a little bit brighter, thanks to an intelligent response from what has become a mature, intelligent business.