For NASA, 2017 has been bustling, looking to save the planet from a threatening volcano and maybe ward off aliens on the side. Topping off the year with an impressive first, the agency is launching a previously-used Falcon 9 rocket into space.
SpaceX will launch 2.5 tons of supplies to the ISS from pad 40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral, and it’ll do so with a rocket booster that’s been used before.
Normally, ships discard booster rockets in space, where they float off to… somewhere. Landing boosters back into Earth will potentially save millions on production and labor. That being said, NASA still remains meticulous about safety measures, despite SpaceX’s constant success.
“Some [rocket booster] components are removed and some new components are added,” Gerstenmaier [of the spaceflight committee] said… “There’s a detailed list of what inspections need to be done. They did a detailed test program. They did a detailed plan.”
It’s painstaking, but NASA is committed to running case-by-case checks. True enough, nobody wants a loose rocket hurtling back into the atmosphere.