Ever since people started the space programs, there was a problem of not being able to successfully launch and then safely land the same rocket. This was changed more than two years ago when SpaceX finally managed to do just that. Now, one of their previously used rockets called Falcon 9 went back into space, and then successfully landed for the second time.
The rocket took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, sending a communications satellite into orbit, and then landed on one of SpaceX’s drone ships in the Atlantic. This rocket’s first successful mission was in April last year, and now the Falcon 9 managed to launch, finish the job and land once again, making it the first rocket ever to go to space twice.
SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, appeared on the company’s live stream shortly after the landing and spoke about the event, calling it a major success and adding that this will lead to a huge revolution in spaceflight.
This mission was of huge importance to SpaceX, and one of their goals was to create a reusable rocket. This is something that they were working on since 2011, and the success of the mission represents a huge milestone for the company. Up until now, every rocket launched was expendable, and after completing the mission, they were simply thrown away. Now, with the reusable rockets, the space companies will save tens to hundreds of millions of dollars per each mission.
SpaceX still can’t save the entire Falcon 9 after each launch. Only the first stage can be saved, and that include the 14-story core that contains the main engines and most of the fuel that’s needed for the launch. Several minutes after takeoff, this first stage separates from the rest of the rocket and makes a controlled descent back to Earth. It can land on the ground, or on one of SpaceX’s drone ships, as it happened in this case.
Over the years, there were 13 different attempts to launch and safely bring back a rocket, and 8 of these missions were a success. However, this was the first vehicle to actually go twice and return safely both times. This has proved that the Falcon 9 rockets are reusable, and SpaceX will probably try the third launch as well sometime in the future. What everyone agrees on is that the company has a lot to be proud of at this moment.
Musk himself said that it took 15 years to get to this point and that he’s incredibly proud of SpaceX and this milestone, that’s one of the biggest in the history of space exploration.
This rocket was the second Falcon 9 ever recovered, and it was used for the company’s eight cargo resupply mission. It brought nearly 7,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station for NASA back on April 8th. After launch, it landed on a drone ship called Of Course I Still Love You. They decided to launch this model again, after the first rocket that ever successfully landed was put on display at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
Even though today’s launch was historic, it was otherwise pretty routine for this company. It transported the satellite called SES-10 to the high orbit 22,000 miles up, that will be used to deliver communications services exclusively to Latin America. SpaceX confirmed that the satellite was successfully deployed shortly after the launch.
SES wanted to be the first company to launch on a used rocket, and one of the reasons may be the 30% discount that SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell has promised. That means that the launch on the used rocket costs around $40 million, instead of $60 million that is the usual price for launching an unused Falcon 9. The first few launches, however, would only have a 10% discount, but neither of these companies disclosed how much was saved for this flight.
Martin Halliwell, CTO of SES, stated that they did receive a discount, but it’s more than just money at stake here, and SES wanted to be the one that will get this “proof-of-concept” moving.
SpaceX wants to maximize the benefits of launching the used rockets and to make them as frequent as possible, but first, it has to be inspected and tested several times to ensure that it’s ready for another space adventure. It took them four months to prepare the rocket for its second flight, but they’re working on hurrying the process. It’s expected that SpaceX will launch up to six pre-flown Flacon 9s this year.