How to Make History, One Rocket at a Time

June 9, 2016 David Marrakchi

history of rockets cover photo

 

As we celebrate SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft making history and achieving what was widely discounted as impossible just few years ago, we know that all that effort didn't come from a void, but rather from hard work, innovation, dedication, and of course utilizing the right tools to manage all the phases of their designs from the various disciplines.

 
  spaceX

As my old man used to say - if you fail, keep trying until you make history (maybe not his exact words, but close)! This saying has never been more true than it was on April 9, 2016, as the Falcon 9 rocket booster from SpaceX successfully landed on a drone ship in the middle of the Atlantic during its reentry flight. This event marked a major milestone for both humanity and SpaceX as we took another step closer towards our destiny in the stars. Our congratulations go out to the entire SpaceX team, as we know this was a journey fraught with repeated failures that all finally amounted to one defining moment of success. But we’ve got to ask - what did it take to get there?

Wasting Space

For decades, getting anything into orbit and beyond consumed loads of money and wasted materials. The greatest of these costs? Rockets. This pricey and explosive piece of metal traditionally burns up during its reentry into earth’s atmosphere after its payload is delivered. Elon Musk even went as far as to compare this waste to disposing of an entire airplane after each flight. Elon’s solution was simple yet daunting - reuse the rockets. Why?

  • A large amount of launch costs for space travel comes from building a rocket, which traditionally is only used once.

  • By lowering the cost of entry for space travel, you can provide a lower barrier to entry for innovative companies to explore and innovate in space.

  • And as any fellow engineer can attest, it’s simply a more efficient use of time, resources, and effort.  

 The economical benefits alone of being able to reuse rockets will completely transform the space industry and reduce the costs associated with space travel by a factor of 100. And for humanity as a whole, the benefits are grand, providing us with more opportunities than ever to make multi-planetary human life a reality. Speaking of which, anyone interested in living on Mars?

SpaceX’s Journey to Today

To keep persisting despite numerous failures is what makes SpaceX a truly innovative company. Before April 9th, the company had tried not once, but five times to successfully land their Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship. Since that time, they have continued to refine, experiment, and innovate, learning and growing stronger from their failures.

Despite their difficult times, we can only imagine that the collective vision from Elon Musk and the rest of his team made this day possible, along with some skillful engineering wizardry of course. But several questions remain on our minds about this event that resonate with engineering problems that we all face every day:

  • How did SpaceX manage to engineer such complex systems?

  • How did they get all their different engineering disciplines to align and communicate?

  • And most importantly, what tools did they use to achieve the impossible?

While we don’t have the answers to some of these questions, we do have an answer for one - the tools behind their engineering operation. We’re proud to say that SpaceX carved a new milestone in the history of humanity with the Unified Design Environment in Altium Designer. Want to learn more about how SpaceX made history on April 9th with Altium Designer? Read the SpaceX success story today.

About the Author

David Marrakchi

David currently serves as a Sr. Technical Marketing Engineer at Altium and is responsible for managing the development of technical marketing materials for all Altium products. He also works closely with our marketing, sales, and customer support teams to define product strategies including branding, positioning, and messaging. David brings over 15 years of experience in the EDA industry to our team, and he holds an MBA from Colorado State University and a B.S. in Electronics Engineering from Devry Technical Institute.

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