Last night will remain in history as the first time anyone – private company or government body – has ever launched a rocket into orbit, then safely landed it on Earth.
After the second stage of the rocket went into orbit with the satellites, the engines of the booster stage reignited to turn around, landing 10 minutes after launch.
It marked a pivotal reversal of fortunes for privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, which was founded by high-tech entrepreneur Elon Musk. This mission also marks SpaceX’s return-to-flight as well as its first mission to land a first stage on land.
“Lower launch costs mean more space-related endeavors, more startups, more space tourism, more space businesses”, he said.
The 11 satellites were also successfully deployed about 20 minutes after the rocket’s launch, making it a dual-success story for Elon Musk’s space firm.
It was the company’s first launch since its rocket carrying cargo to the International Space Station exploded June 28. Welcome to the club! “Reusable rockets FTW”, wrote one excited follower, while another said that Musk is “inspiring a new generation of scientists and astronauts with this historical achievement!” Two previous attempts – in January and April of this year – ended poorly when the rocket wasn’t able to get into the correct angle for landing on a floating landing pad, causing explosions in both cases.
“I think we’ll probably keep this one on the ground”, Musk said, according to The Verge, “just because it’s kind of unique, it’s the first one we’ve brought back”.
Why a reusable rocket matters SpaceX The process of landing a reusable rocket is shown in this diagram from SpaceX. This success could open up the possibility of reusing rocket parts – a process that could make spaceflight significantly more affordable.