Once upon a time the United States and Russia famously duked it out over who could make it to space first. Now we are all trying to see who can go and come from space the smartest and most eco-friendly way possible. LinkSpace, a Chinese contender in the race to make rocket technology more user and wallet-friendly, successfully completed its third test of a sustainable rocket this past weekend.
Reusable rockets have become all the rage in space technologies centered on satellite deployment and the many countless applications (and dollars) that this innovative industry potentially holds.
The average cost of launching a small rocket like a Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems Pegasus is between $25M and $30M, and you've still got to send it off via an aircraft at high altitude. LinkSpace is shooting to make something that costs no more than $4.25M, can be launched from the ground, and, most importantly can be used again.
The RLV-T5 rocket designed by the Beijing-based company achieved 300 meters in height and boomeranged back to its launchpad in a mere 50 seconds after leaving the desert grounds of western Qinghai. LinkSpace hopes to exceed this performance with its RLV-T16, capable of much higher altitudes estimated to approach 150 kilometers, in the coming year.
The Falcon 9, from Elon Musk's SpaceX program, represents the genesis of the recoverable rocket race currently underway across engineering companies both public and private in China, Europe, Japan, Russia, and the United States. Orbital missions have been successfully completed by Falcon 9 rockets for over a decade now and other privately owned companies, such as China's iSpace, are rapidly following suit and attempting to better the technology.
Watch the historic landing of the Falcon 9 in the video below to get a sense of what all this rocket reusability looks like in the real.
The innate allure of cutting the cost of a rocket launch by 70% or more is not the only factor guiding these companies toward lightspeed developments. The intended commercial uses for satellite deployments of this kind could revolutionize internet coverage in rural areas, shipment management systems, and even traffic down here on Earth for we land-bound creatures.