Elon Musk, the South African-born immigrant who made his first fortune revolutionizing how we accept payments with PayPal, is now trying to do the same with space travel.
Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, otherwise known as SpaceX, was founded by Musk in an effort to reduce transportation costs of space and enable the eventual colonization of Mars. SpaceX created the first privately funded, liquid-fueled rocket and was also the first company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft. But the advancements SpaceX seeks still continue to set new records in space travel, and astronomy as a whole.
While SpaceX was the first privately funded company to ever send a spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) years ago, Musk is now seeking to advance rocket technology in 2015, using a scheduled resupply mission to the ISS to test a trial product's efficacy. The goal of the mission at hand will be to launch a rocket and then land the rocket on an open-ocean platform.
If successful, SpaceX will take a big leap forward in the field of reusable rocket technology. In fact, no first-stage rocket has ever been recovered for reuse. If successful, the company will set a new standard in space exploration - one that could eventually cut the cost of space travel by a factor of 100, according to Musk.
Last year, the company made multiple attempts to land a rocket softly in the ocean. And it even got pretty close in 2014. After it successfully achieved the first soft landing in history in April, the rocket toppled sideways in the high seas, damaging it beyond repair. But this didn't deter SpaceX, who began formulating the plan to land the rock on a self-stabilizing platform, and in 2015 they plan to perfect the science down to a tee.
"I think we've got a chance of landing on a floating landing platform," Elon Musk said in October, at the MIT AeroAstro Centennial Symposium. "And if we land on that, then I think we'll be able to re-fly that booster."
"It's probably not more than a 50% chance or less of landing it on the platform, but there's at least a dozen launches that will occur over the next 12 months, and I think it's quite likely, probably 80 to 90% likely, that one of those flights will be able to land and re-fly. So I think we're quite close."
In a statement released by the company, SpaceX said that, "During previous attempts, we could only expect a landing accuracy of within 10 kilometers (6.2 miles). For this attempt, we're targeting a landing accuracy of within 10 meters (33 feet)."
Of course, doing this will be like "trying to balance a rubber broomstick on your hand in the middle of a wind storm", but the company remains resilient in their hope of achieving their ambitious feats.