Elon Musk’s SpaceX is known for trying out daring things that sometimes work, sometimes fail. The company perfected the art of recovering the booster rockets from its Falcon 9 with an almost perfect consistency and set an awesome track record in 2017. This year, the company launched its Falcon Heavy with no less than 3 boosters and attempted to land all three.
The company has long since tried to capture the upper stages of its rockets as well, in order to re-use them and further reduce launch costs. It even tried catching the Falcon Heavy fairing with a giant net in the Pacific.
Now, it seems Musk has had yet another idea about how to bring the upper stages of the rocket back to earth. In a tweet, he said that SpaceX will try using a ‘giant party balloon’ to bring the upper stages of its rockets out of orbital speeds.
SpaceX will try to bring rocket upper stage back from orbital velocity using a giant party balloon
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 15, 2018
Adding a bit of context to his claims when questioned on whether Helium will actually help the rocket stage stay up in space, Musk said, “Yeah, but great for creating a giant object that retains its shape across all Mach regimes & drops ballistic coefficient by 2 orders of magnitude.”
The tweet attracted a lot of attention, as Musk’s tweets always do, and Smarter Every Day questioned Musk about whether the company will use targeted retro-burns to direct the stage to a particular point. Musk replied: “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.”
It’ll definitely be interesting to see how SpaceX attempts to use this idea to land the upper stages of its rockets in the future.