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SpaceX chasing rocketry’s Holy Grail

25 Jan 2012, 00:26 UTC
SpaceX chasing rocketry’s Holy Grail Chesley Bonestell Estate
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As many who follow and support spaceflight are well aware, a Holy Grail of modern space transportation is the concept of the fully reusable rocket, or Reusable Launch System/Vehicle (RLV). Now, NewSpace orbital spacecraft provider SpaceX might just have this elusive target squarely in its sights.
1950s-era painting of a Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing, fully reusable spacecraft. (Credit: Chesley Bonestell Estate)
Many solutions have been suggested to achieve the true RLV space technology benchmark, which would herald a new era in space transportation by driving launch prices down at least an order of magnitude. However, only a very few of these designs have lofted from the drawing board, and none have yet been successfully implemented.
Amongst these attempts are practically all of the famed, V-2 rocket-inspired Single Stage To Orbit (SSTO) concepts, such as those Vertical Takeoff, Vertical Landing (VTVL) rockets populating 1950s science fiction (right), as well as the Vertical-Takeoff, Horizontal Landing craft (VTHL) such as Lockheed’s Venturestar from the 1990s.
However, SpaceX, which has a cargo contract with NASA in-hand, is showing no signs of taking a breath prior to their first demonstration flight to the International Space Station later this year. Instead of the traditional, expendable ...

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