SpaceX Successfully Relaunches, Relands an Orbital Rocket

SpaceX started flying the kerosene-fueled boosters in 2015 and has landed around eight of them.

The two-stage rocket, carrying a communications satellite into orbit for Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES, blasted off at 6:27 p.m. EDT (22:27 GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But the company had to push back the date after a different rocket, which was new, exploded spontaneously at Cape Canaveral in September, causing months of launch delays for SpaceX.

He added: "It's a great day not just for SpaceX, but for the space industry as a whole, proving that something can be done that many people said was impossible".

And just to put the cherry on top of the rocket sundae, SpaceX also managed to recover the fairing housing the satellite after it was successfully deployed.

The achievement has the scope to radically shake-up the economics and practicalities of space travel, potentially consigning astronomically expensive, single-use rockets to the galactic bin-bag.

SpaceX reckons that reusing rockets will let it cut its costs by about 30 percent. SES, in fact, is considering more launches later this year on reused Falcon boosters. "It's the difference between if you had airplanes where you threw away an airplane after every flight versus you could reuse them multiple times".

The rocket stage standing on the drone ship.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket costs about $62 million.

The company confirmed to CNNMoney in August that its client for this trip received a discount on the Falcon 9 sticker price, but it declined to say by how much. "A fully reusable vehicle has never been done before".

"The potential is there for (an) over 100-fold reduction in the cost of access to space". The first successful ground-based touchdown of an orbital-classrocket booster came the previous December.

This almost year-long turnaround time isn't ideal. Musk is challenging SpaceX to trim down that turnaround time, though.

Other companies are also aiming for reusability.

Musk said his California-based company's next goal in the burgeoning commercial space industry will be to turn around a salvaged rocket booster for re-launch within 24 hours.

  • Carolyn Briggs