With all this talk of slingshotting astronauts into space, it's good time to check in on SpaceX's progress to a new reusable crewed spacecraft. The Falcon 9 Reusable had its second test flight, reaching 1 kilometer altitude before a successful soft-landing.
The cows were less impressed by the rocket's roar. Screenshot from video.
The Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) quadrupled its height from the last test, reaching 1,000 meters before coming back down for a landing. For now, the landing legs are staying in place for the whole flight, but later SpaceX intends to lift off with legs stowed away, extending them only for landing.
Unlike Soyuz, SpaceX's Falcon and Dragon craft are all about reusability. They are very insistent that the only way to get interplanetary colonization out of science fiction and into reality is by making their rockets rapidly reusable. The Falcon 9 currently in use for ferrying supplies to the International Space Station is making a good effort, with stage one rocket making a soft landing after the last launch. Alas, high seas prevented a boat from meeting the rocket, so it landed on ocean, hovering for a few seconds before toppling into the sea.
It's apparently the week for soft-landing test flights: this is the second video by SpaceX, and Project Morpheus also released a video. SpaceX released a corrupted video of a mostly-successful soft-landing from the last ISS supply launch, while prototype planetary explorer Morpheus had a successful flight earlier this week including its first attempt at automated hazard detection.
What's next for the F9R? More testing with legs stowed, reaching higher altitudes, and working more with unpowered guidance. From the video description:
The F9R testing program is the next step towards reusability following completion of the Grasshopper program last year. Future testing, including that in New Mexico, will be conducted using the first stage of a F9R as shown here, which is essentially a Falcon 9 v1.1 first stage with legs. F9R test flights in New Mexico will allow us to test at higher altitudes than we are permitted for at our test site in Texas, to do more with unpowered guidance and to prove out landing cases that are more-flight like.