SpaceX has finally proved that it has mastered the reusable rocket technology. Rockets that cost a fortune to build will no longer be one-launch wonders. On Monday night, SpaceX engineers launched an upgraded Falcon 9 rocket, delivered a payload into space, and successfully landed the first stage of the rocket vertically on a landing pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida just eight minutes after launch.
Falcon 9 makes a historic comeback after June explosion
The second stage of the rocket is on its way to place 11 satellites into low Earth orbit for communications firm ORBCOMM. This historic feat is going to revolutionize the private space industry. Just six months ago, the Falcon 9 rocket exploded minutes after taking off, en route to the International Space Station (ISS). Since then, all further rocket launches from SpaceX were put on hold for a revaluation of safety procedures and the rocket’s design.
For more than a year, SpaceX has been trying to master the reusable rocket technology. Prior to Monday’s safe landing, the company had attempted three landings, but without success. If the company takes its reusable technology to the marketplace, it would dramatically reduce the cost of launches. About $16 million worth of equipment is destroyed every time it carries supplies to the ISS or sends satellites into space. Reusing the first stage of the rocket would help it avoid that cost, making its launch prices unbeatable by rivals.
A ‘revolutionary moment’ for SpaceX
SpaceX founder Elon Musk aims to launch commercial spaceflights and enable humans to live on Mars. Launching and safely returning a spacecraft is a huge step in that direction. It was the first time an orbital rocket landed safely with the help of thrusters after delivering a payload to orbit. Billionaire Elon Musk hailed it as a “revolutionary moment.” He said in a tweet:
11 satellites deployed to target orbit and Falcon has landed back at Cape Canaveral. Headed to LZ-1. Welcome back, baby!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 22, 2015
Amazon co-founder Jeff Bezos congratulated SpaceX on the successful landing of the rocket. “Welcome to the club!” he said without acknowledging the difference between returning a rocket after an actual space launch with a heavy load and returning a rocket after traveling to the edge of space. Last month, Bezos’ company Blue Origin returned a rocket to Earth after traveling to the edge of space. Wait But Why points out that SpaceX’s accomplishment is “100 times more difficult” than that of Blue Origin.
Congrats @SpaceX on landing Falcon's suborbital booster stage. Welcome to the club!
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) December 22, 2015