SpaceX, owned by alternative energy entrepreneur and space enthusiast Elon Musk, just launched its Falcon 9 rocket into space from Cape Canaveral, Florida. So what?
Well, it also managed the more difficult feat of landing the rocket back on earth in an upright position. The company has been trying to achieve this for about a year now, but past attempts at landing the rockets on a floating platform in the sea (in January and April 2015) all ended in explosions. This time the rocket landed on solid ground.
Remember the landing of the moon rocket in the Tintin adventure Explorers on the Moon? Something like that.
In June 2014 the Falcon 9 had exploded en route to the International Space Station. The latest version of the rocket, informally named Falcon 9 v1.1, as reported by The Verge, has an updated engine to provide more thrust.
But why did Amazon founder Jeff Bezos respond to the event with a "welcome to the club" tweet?
That's because SpaceX was not the first to launch a rocket into space and land it back on earth successfully. On November 23, 2015, Blue Origin, the space flight company owned by Amazon's Jeff Bezos, landed its rocket New Shepard back on earth. In an upright position. See the video below.
However, this led to a minor tweet war between Bezos and Musk.
Musk's logic, as this article in The Verge points out, is that the two feats cannot be compared. While Falcon 9 is meant to launch satellites into orbits, New Shepard is for taking tourists into space. The different shapes and sizes make the challenges different, therefore.
The Falcon 9 is much bigger and faster than New Shepard and has also gone farther into space. The rocket's mission was to carry 11 satellites into low Earth orbit to boost Orbcom, a communications satellite's network. These were successfully deployed.
Hundreds of SpaceX employees cheered the touchdown at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California chanting “USA! USA! USA!”
Whether the engine on this rocket is usable is not clear. The Verge reported "Elon Musk has said today's rocket boosters won't be sent back to space. "It's kind of unique," he said. "It's the first one we've brought back."
Here's a high resolution video of the landing.