Image of the Day: Falcon 9 gets legs

Launching stuff into space is hard. Very hard. And that means it's expensive. Very expensive. We're talking thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars per pound. You're paying for technical sophistication and fuel, of course, but you're also paying for the actual rocket hardware, which is, not surprisingly, extremely expensive. Reusable rockets are a fantastic way to help bring costs down, which is why NASA rigged the space shuttle's solid rocket boosters to parachute back to Earth. Reusable liquid fueled rockets are a lot harder (what with all the complicated moving parts), but SpaceX is making progress towards success with the Falcon 9.

The picture above shows a Falcon 9 rocket equipped with some deployable landing legs, which'll eventually allow it to make a soft landing on the pad that it took off from. These legs will make a trip to low Earth orbit later this year as part of a cargo delivery to the International Space Station. SpaceX isn't quite ready for the actual soft landing test, but they do want to make sure that having the legs equipped for the trip up doesn't mess with the rocket. Instead, they'll be aiming for a controlled splashdown in the ocean, which will be a test of the return guidance and control systems without as much risk of the rocket landing on your house.

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Via Universe Today

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