Falcon 9 successfully landed upright close to its launch pad at Cape Canaveral on Monday.
This is a massive achievement as rockets are expensive. It costs about $60 million to build the Falcon 9 used by SpaceX – since most rockets are expected to burn up during re-entry, a company will have to build a new rocket for every new space mission – and fuel costs are as much as $200,000, as reported by NBC News.
If one is able to reuse rockets, there would only be fuel and maintenance costs to be taken into account when sending cargo. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on the company’s website, “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. A fully reusable vehicle has never been done before. That really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionize access to space.”
Falcon 9 was sent with 11 small satellites. It was the company’s first mission since an accident last summer.
“We achieved recovery of the rocket in a mission that actually deployed 11 satellites,” Musk said.
According to The Globe and Mail, Brigadier-General Wayne Monteith, the top officer at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, said the landing “placed the exclamation mark on 2015.” In a statement, Brig.-Gen. Monteith said, “This was a first for us at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and I can’t even begin to describe the excitement the team feels right now having been a part of this historic first-stage rocket landing.”
Morning News USA previously reported that SpaceX has attempted landing rockets twice before. The company tried to land the first stage of Falcon 9 on a floating platform in January and April. However, the rockets fell over and exploded.
Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, described the landing of Falcon 9 as “an important” step towards reusable rockets. He noted that SpaceX has landed the first stage of Falcon 9, and that there is more work to be done. “The next step is to see how much it costs and how long it takes to refurbish the recovered stage and fly it again,” he said.
In November, Blue Origin, founded by Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos, was also able to land a rocket after its launch.