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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

NASA looks to SpaceX for Mars landing tips

•, By David Szondy

During a Falcon 9 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in September, the space agency sent a pair of chase planes up to take high-resolution images of the booster as it made a powered test landing on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean as a way of gather critical engineering information for future Mars missions.

The Falcon 9 is SpaceX's attempt at a paradigm shift in spaceflight as the company works on a space launch system where all the major components from booster stages to spacecraft are able to return to Earth for a quick refueling and relaunching at a fraction of what current systems cost. Though still in its early stages, the powered landing system is already paying dividends to NASA, who sees the Falcon 9 as a source of data for future Mars missions.

In September, NASA sent up a pair of chase planes; one from NASA's Scientifically Calibrated In-Flight Imagery (SCIFLI) project team, and one from the US Naval Air Systems Command Weapons Division's Air Test and Evaluation Squadron-30 at Point Mugu, California.

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