Elon Musk’s SpaceX is celebrating a victory after the company sent a Falcon 9 rocket into space for a second time, which marks the rocket’s first successful reentry into space. The ability to reuse the orbital boosters on the rockets can slash costs as the company has previously had to build a completely new rocket for each launch to the tune of millions of dollars.
CEO Elon Musk, founder of PayPal and Tesla, spoke about the launch in a livestream: “It means you can fly and refly an orbital class booster, which is the most expensive part of the rocket. This is going to be, ultimately, a huge revolution in spaceflight,”
The Falcon 9 launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, then landed on a SpaceX ship in the ocean. SpaceX has tried to launch and land rockets since 2011 in a bid to reuse the parts and save money and has successfully landed eight rockets over the past couple of years. The company also had some setbacks, such as the Falcon 9 that exploded last September. The March 30 launch marked the first time the whole process went according to plan.
SpaceX doesn’t reuse the entire rocket – a process made easier by the fact that the rocket’s core separates and falls away a few minutes after launch. The core contains the vital main engine and most of the fuel supply, which count among the most expensive parts and supplies to replicate. The fact that the Falcon 9’s core parts have now made two successful trips to space, and returned intact, could revolutionize the private space industry.
The Falcon 9 wasn’t just in space to test a launch. The rocket delivered a space satellite for Luxembourg-based telecommunications company SES during this trip, and in its first run into space delivered cargo to the International Space Station in SpaceX’s eight supply run to the NASA station.
The Falcon 9 relaunch might attract more customers to SpaceX as the company could start offering steep discounts on using the reused rockets. SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell told SpaceNews last fall that customers could expect an initial 10% discount on reused rocket services but that the discount might grow to 30% in the future.