Elon Musk’s SpaceX is getting closer to having technology which could dramatically lower the cost of space travel. In a keynote speech at SXSW Interactive, Musk demonstrated tech that could be used to make rockets reusable.
During the interview, Musk showed off a couple of videos demonstrating how the technology works. The first video was a simulation, which showed theoretically how the different rockets used to launch shuttles into space could return to earth and land. That is in contrast to previous rocket technology, which typically breaks off and is not reused.
SpaceX has a prototype available which has already had a real-life launch, which was the second video that Musk displayed. The video had been shot a few days earlier and showed rocket, which is about 10 stories tall, launching briefly, and then returning to earth after a short time. While the rocket didn’t go very far in that initial test, Musk said SpaceX plans to continue going higher and higher with each test launch.
The successful launch was due to the thrusters and landing gear that were built in, but also due to a terminal guidance system that SpaceX had developed. That technology will be used in the design of its Dragon 2 capsule, which will allow it to land anywhere on Earth with the accuracy of a helicopter.
Musk said that reusability would be the most important part of making the economics of space travel feasible. The founder of PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla, said it was crazy to throw away rockets after each trip. “If society is going to expand beyond earth, we need to have reusable rockets,” Musk said.
And all of that is important, because Musk really wants to see humans get to Mars in his lifetime. That’s kind of why he started the whole SpaceX thing to begin with. In fact, he apparently would like to see civilization on Mars, and maybe be a part of it. “I would like to die on Mars, just not on impact,” Musk said.