Elon Musk’s SpaceX has just accomplished something no other space agency on the planet has: it successfully re-launched one of its Falcon 9 rockets into orbit and had it return to Earth safely.
That’s a huge deal, because it means that rockets can be reused and the cost of space missions can be reduced drastically – the first stage of the rocket that was recovered itself makes up about 80 percent of the cost of a launch mission. For reference, Popular Science notes that a SpaceX launch costs roughly $62 million, and Musk envisions reusable rockets cutting that price down by 30 percent.
Not to mention how far we’ve come in engineering precision in space technology. As Elon Musk noted after the rocket landed on the droneship ‘Of Course I Love You’ in the Atlantic Ocean:
It’s been 15 years to get to this point. I’m sort of at a loss for words. It’s been a great day for SpaceX and space exploration as a whole.
For those keeping score, the Falcon 9 is the same rocket that stuck a landing on a seafaring barge at the end of 2015.
In addition to landing the first stage safely on the barge, SpaceX also recovered the nose cone for the first time. This component protects the payload and costs about $6 million on its own.
Today’s launch saw the Falcon 9 deliver a telecom satellite to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) for major satellite operator SES. The SES-10 will provide improved connectivity across Latin America and will be one of the biggest satellites servicing the region.
Clearly not one to rest on his laurels, Musk already has another major project in mind for SpaceX:
Incredibly proud of the SpaceX team for achieving this milestone in space! Next goal is reflight within 24 hours.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 30, 2017