This Is What the Future of Space Travel Looks Like


On Monday, SpaceX is launching its sixth resupply mission to the International Space Station. Yesterday, the California company released this incredible 4K video of its previous launches to get you hyped. It’ll work, even if your monitor isn’t capable of displaying the 4K footage in all its intended glory.

Monday’s SpaceX mission is about more than giant smoke clouds and fire-spouting rockets, though that’s obviously one of the coolest parts (and the most visually compelling). The main objective is delivering 4,387 pounds of food, experiments, and other supplies to ISS. To do that, the Falcon 9 rocket will deliver SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft into orbit. Two days later, on Wednesday, April 15, the cargo's expected to arrive at ISS. After five weeks attached to the space station, Dragon will return to Earth with 3,000 pounds of trash and gear.

SpaceX’s secondary mission — the one that portends great things for the future of space travel — is to get the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket to return to Earth safely and land on what the company’s calling a "spaceport drone ship." The bargelike platform will be floating in the Atlantic Ocean and awaiting the arrival of the rocket, which will separate from its payload and the second-stage rocket minutes after launch. The Falcon 9 will then fire its engines in the first of three burns designed to bring it back to Earth. This first firing, called the “boostback burn,” is meant to set the rocket on its course toward the barge. The second will slow it on its descent, and the third will help it make its landing. SpaceX attempted the same thing in January, but its rocket exploded on the landing deck. The problem: The steering fins had run out of hydraulic fluid.

If SpaceX succeeds this time around — and yes, they’ve packed this rocket with much more hydraulic fluid — it will be the first step toward realizing founder Elon Musk’s dream of a reusable rocket, which would dramatically reduce the cost of space travel. As SpaceX sees it, that’s “the key to making human life multi-planetary.”