SpaceX success: Makes history with launch and landing of a used rocket

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.

The launch of the SES-10 global communications satellite marked the first time an orbital class rocket had ever been re-used for space flight - an advancement with the potential to save millions of dollars on future cargo and manned missions.

At 6:27 p.m.ET, a Falcon booster first launched almost a year ago fired the same nine engines to thunder from pad 39A and propel a second mission on its way to orbit, something no rocket has done before.

SpaceX has now made nine successful rocket landings - six at sea and three on land -as it continues to ideal its technology ahead of its first crewed tests, possibly next year.

Musk's private space company is scheduled to relaunch a Falcon 9 rocket - which successfully propelled the Dragon cargo ship into space in 2016 - from Florida's Kennedy Space Center on Thursday, March 30.

A Falcon 9 rocket costs about $62 million total, but fuel is just a relatively small portion of that.

By flying these rockets multiple times - and eventually only paying to refuel the boosters - Musk thinks his company can greatly drive down the cost of launching payloads and one day people to orbit.

Speaking soon after the rocket touched down, Musk said it "did its mission perfectly" before landing "right on the bullseye" of the barge.

On Thursday, the rocket's second-stage, which is not recovered, continued firing to carry SES-10 into an initial egg-shaped orbit high above Earth, which it will provide television and other communications services to Latin America.

As for this SpaceX reused booster, Mr Halliwell said engineers went through it with a fine-tooth comb after its lift-off in April past year.

"DARPA facilitated the first SpaceX launch, and now commercial space is coming into its own". The video feed cut out momentarily and then came back on to show the rocket standing upright on the platform.

Price alone was not the reason SES, with a fleet of 65 satellites, chose to fly on a used rocket, he said.

It's made 14 attempts to recover the first stage of its Falcon 9 rockets, and so far nine have been successful.

"If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred", said Musk on the SpaceX website. A SES spacecraft was on board for SpaceX's first commercial satellite launch in 2013.

"It's game-changer", said Martin Halliwell, chief technology officer at SES.

SpaceX has been working toward its goal of using recycled rockets for more than a year.

  • Arturo Norris