SpaceX has a new solution for recovering rocket components, and it involves giant party balloons and bouncy houses.
SpaceX will try to bring rocket upper stage back from orbital velocity using a giant party balloon— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 15, 2018
As he often does, Elon Musk took to Twitter to announce his latest unorthodox plan: bringing a “rocket upper stage back from orbital velocity using a giant party balloon.” He later explained the balloon would allow the cone to retrain its shape “across all mach regimes” and decrease the component’s ballistic coefficient (the ability to overcome air resistance) by two orders of magnitude.
We already do targeted retro burn to a specific point in Pacific w no islands or ships, so upper stage doesn’t become a dead satellite. Need to retarget closer to shore & position catcher ship like Mr Steven.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 16, 2018
When asked by popular YouTube channel Smarter Every Day how SpaceX will decide where the upper stage will deorbit, or reenter Earth’s atmosphere, Musk said it would need to land closer to shore on a catcher ship like Mr. Steven. The idea of using a “party balloon” to land the upper stage is part of SpaceX’s goal to recover and recycle every part of its rockets, not just the first stage. If it’s successful, the cost of launching used Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy spacecraft could decrease considerably.
This would all seem like a silly joke had anyone else posted it, but Musk has a proven record of following through with bizarre claims. In a similarly unconventional strategy, SpaceX tried to catch the fairing, or cone-shaped nose piece that covers a rocket’s payload, with a “giant catcher’s mitt” in the form of a high-speed boat. It failed, missing its target by around 300 feet.
And then land on a bouncy house— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 16, 2018
Where will the upper stage and its giant Up-like balloon land? A bouncy house, of course.