SpaceX successfully launches ‘used’ Falcon 9 rocket

SpaceX successfully launches ‘used’ rocket

Making a big leap in its bid to drive down costs of space flights, Elon Musk’s SpaceX recently flawlessly launched a used rocket and then retrieved it. The event marked the first time for any space firm to fly a used booster that had soared before on an orbital mission. After being successfully sent into space, the Falcon 9 rocket returned and landed on an ocean platform.

Carrying a communications satellite, the used Falcon 9 rocket lifted-off from Florida's Kennedy Space Center at around 18:27 EDT on Thursday. The feat marked an achievement that was once believed to be impossible.

After the successful feat, Mr. Musk said, “This is a huge day. My mind’s blown, frankly. It is an incredible milestone in the history of space" and predicted, "this is going to be a huge revolution in spaceflight.”

The company has plans to re-use many more recovered boosters for its planned future space missions.

Rockets are traditionally discarded and destroyed after being sent into space. But, Mr. Musk’s space firm has become adept in recovering rockets after their launch. Reusability of rockets is crucial to trim down costs of deep space and Mars missions in the future.

Shortly after the main section of SpaceX’s first recycled Falcon 9 booster landed itself on a platform in the ocean, half of the rocket’s nosecone, which protected a communications satellite during launch, splashed down via parachute nearby.

"That was the cherry on the cake,” Musk, who serves as chief executive and lead designer of Space Exploration Technologies, told reporters after launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"It’s its own little spacecraft,” Musk said. “The thrusters maintain its orientation as it re-enters and then ... the parachute steers it to a particular location.”

“Odds of success low, but maybe worth a shot,” Musk wrote on Twitter on Friday.

"At first it sounded easy. We’ll just take two first stages and use them as strap-on boosters,” Musk said. “It was actually shockingly difficult to go from single core to a triple-core vehicle.”

A CNN report informed, "SpaceX's current equipment consists of the Falcon 9 two-stage rocket system and the Dragon payload and crew module. The Falcon 9 lifts the payload into orbit. While the second stage of the rocket is currently designed to fall to Earth and burn up in the atmosphere, for several years SpaceX has been developing the ability to gently land the first stage vertically either on a pad near the launch facility or on platforms floating in the ocean several hundred miles from the launch site."

The price of the fuel is only about 1% of the total cost of a rocket launch. The rest is the rocket itself, with 70% of the price tied up in the first stage of the booster. Being able to reuse the rocket represents a huge cost savings. Industry estimates suggest that reusing the first stage of the Falcon 9 booster might lead to a 30% reduction in the launch costs.