A recycled SpaceX rocket recovered at sea from its first flight nearly a year ago blasted off again on Thursday from Florida on a satellite-delivery mission, another key step in founder Elon Musk's plan to slash launch costs by reusing his rockets.
The Falcon 9 booster, which previously flew in April 2016, lifted off from the Kennedy Space Centre at 6:27 pm EDT (22:27 GMT) to put a communications satellite into orbit for Luxembourg-based SES SA.
The booster’s main section then separated from the rest of the rocket and flew itself back to a landing pad in the Atlantic, where it successfully touched down for its second at-sea return.
Falcon 9 first stage has landed on Of Course I Still Love You — world’s first reflight of an orbital class rocket.— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 30, 2017
The unprecedented twin achievements of re-launching a used rocket and salvaging the vehicle yet again were hailed by billionaire SpaceX founder Elon Musk as a revolutionary step in his quest to slash launch costs and shorten intervals between space shots.
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
It took Space Exploration Technologies Corp, as the California-based company is formally known, 15 years to demonstrate that a rocket typically discarded in the ocean after a single flight could be recovered and reused.
Musk's SpaceX, formally known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp, made history in December 2015 when it landed an orbital rocket after launch for the first time, a feat it since has repeated seven times.
By reusing rockets, SpaceX aims to cut its costs by about 30 percent, the company has said. It lists the cost of a Falcon 9 ride at $62 million, but has not yet announced a price for flying on a recycled rocket.
“We’re really looking for true operational reusability like an aircraft,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said during a launch webcast. “We're looking to land and relaunch on the same day.”
The boosters are expected to be able to fly 10 times with no refurbishment and about 100 times with moderate reconditioning, though the one launched on Thursday will be donated to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport for display, Musk said.
Join The Quint on WhatsApp. Type “JOIN” and send to 9910181818.