Elon Musk’s SpaceX on Thursday launched and retrieved its first recycled rocket, marking a watershed in aerospace history. For the first time, the company launched a used Falcon 9 booster from Florida to its orbit and then landed it again on an ocean platform. A year ago, the booster had landed on the ocean platform after a space station launch for National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
SpaceX refurbished the 15-foot booster and tested its nine original engines. The move is believed to reduce costs while boosting speed. “This is a huge day. My mind’s blown, frankly...This is going to be a huge revolution in spaceflight,” said Musk, according to AP. By reusing rockets, the aerospace company aims to eventually cut costs by about 30%, reported Reuters.
Before a vertical landing at sea on Thursday, the rocket boosted the satellite for SES, an old customer of SpaceX. Although the Luxembourg firm got a discount for agreeing to use a recycled rocket, Chief Technology Officer Martin Halliwell said it was not about money. “[It is] a big step for everybody – something that’s never, ever been done before,” he told AP.
Boosters, the most expensive part of the rocket, are usually discarded after liftoffs and dropped into the Atlantic. But SpaceX has been flying them back since 2015. With Thursday’s feat, it has landed nine boosters – three at Cape Canaveral and six on ocean platforms. However, this booster will never fly again, said Musk, adding that it will be put up for public viewing at Cape Canaveral.
Musk is now eyeing a relaunch in 24 hours. He said this feat could also be achieved by the end of the year.