SpaceX has reached a historic milestone in the company’s pursuit of reusability completing its 50th Falcon 9 booster recovery.
On March 7, SpaceX launched the company’s 20th commercial resupply mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a Falcon 9. The booster powering the 70-meter tall SpaceX workhorse was B1059, a booster that had been utilised just three months earlier to launch CRS-19.
After a textbook launch, the upper stage of the rocket separated successfully and continued on. In its wake, B1059 spun around and completed two burns approximately four minutes apart on its way back to the Cape.
As the booster plummeted through Earth’s atmosphere towards the ground, the mood in mission control at SpaceX was equal parts eager anticipation and cautious anxiety. Two tense minutes later, B1059 touched down safely at Cape Canaveral Landing Zone-1 to rapturous applause from all in attendance.
The near-perfect second recovery of B1059 was the 50th time SpaceX had recovered a Falcon 9 booster. The milestone is an incredible achievement for the company and the latest validation that SpaceX has done and continues to do what many had once said was impossible.
In addition to it being the 50th recovery of a Falcon 9 booster, the CRS-20 mission was also the final flight of the company’s Cargo Dragon spacecraft. Over its decade-long service, the spacecraft completed 20 space station resupply missions, delivered over 43,000 kilograms of cargo, and spent 520 days attached the orbiting laboratory.
Moving forward, SpaceX will utilise a variant of its new Crew Dragon spacecraft to complete commercial resupply missions. This spacecraft will be cheaper to operate than its predecessor and will require less refurbishment between flights.
The first resupply mission to be launched aboard the new Dragon cargo spacecraft is currently scheduled for late October 2020.