Elon Musk is known to boldly do things no man has ever done before and this time, he has turned his attention to SpaceX’s rocket stages.
The aerospace engineering company is looking for new ways to make their rocket components reusable in order to bring down the cost of its missions.
And it appears Musk is thinking about using a “giant party balloon” to take the upper stage of his rocket (which is designed to operate at high altitude and carry the payload) out of orbital velocity and slow down its landing back on Earth – onto a bouncy castle.
SpaceX will try to bring rocket upper stage back from orbital velocity using a giant party balloon— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 15, 2018
And then land on a bouncy house— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 16, 2018
Previously SpaceX has only been able to recover the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket which contains the engine that provides the initial thrust needed to lift the rocket.
The second and upper stage continues its trajectory once the first stage has fallen away.
Upper stages of launch vehicles are a significant source of space debris, remaining in orbit in a non-operational state for many years after use.
While Musk has admitted he knows the plan sounds “crazy”, he hasn’t shed more light on the subject, only noting that a balloon would drop the stage’s ballistic coefficient – the ability to overcome air resistance during flight – and preserve its shape while travelling at different speeds.
Yeah, but great for creating a giant object that retains its shape across all Mach regimes & drops ballistic coefficient by 2 orders of magnitude— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 15, 2018
Whether this plan will work or not remains to be seen, but the billionaire entrepreneur has certainly got fans excited.
I have no idea what this means but I’m excited about it anyway!
Sign me up for whatever this is.— Zedd (@Zedd) April 15, 2018
Can we rsvp and attend said balloon party?!— Shira Lazar (@shiralazar) April 16, 2018
Listen, if we can put a man on the moon, we can put a rocket on a bouncy house.— 🎃skoot🎃 (@BigSkoot) April 16, 2018
As of 2018, SpaceX estimates a cost of $62 million (£43m) to launch Falcon 9 and $90 million (£63) to launch Falcon Heavy.