Those crazy genius at SpaceX have a new plan: fully reusable rockets. Their system is surprisingly simple, but they don’t know if it will work. But CEO Elon Musk says they are going to try it. Here’s how it works:
After stage separation, they want to turn the stages around, relight the engines, aerodynamically steer them back to the launch pad and make them touch down smoothly on landing legs.
That sounds good. My only question is: where the hell are they going to get all the fuel for that powerful landing retro-propulsion? Are they going to increase the size of their spaceships.
I’m certainly not a rocket scientist, but wouldn’t it be more simple and smarter to use the same thermal-shield turn-around system and parachutes and huge airbags to achieve the same smooth landing effect of the retro propulsion? Perhaps it won’t be as cool as the robotic landing legs, but I’m sure it would be lighter and safer—just imagine that stage dropping down with a failed engine, a much higher probability than a failed parachute. [SpaceX]