SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket made a historic landing in Cape Canaveral last night, proving that the first stage of a Falcon 9 can be returned to Earth intact and saving both the money and construction time that formerly had to go into building another rocket.
The landing of the rocket was officially only a secondary test objective after deploying the satellites, but it’s a big accomplishment for SpaceX, proving that their plan for a reusable rocket really works. Re-using the first stage saves the company a portion of the cost per launch, which would otherwise have been needed to build another first stage. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in 2013 that the first stage makes up three-quarters of the total cost.
The mission’s primary objective was the delivery of 11 satellites into a low Earth orbit constellation for ORBCOMM, a machine-to-machine and Internet of Things solutions provider.
This is the first flight after the crash of a Falcon 9 on June 28, which tipped over during an attempt to land on a platform in the ocean. After that incident, SpaceX took a six-month hiatus from launches and rolled out the upgraded Falcon 9, which has increased thrust, a much larger upper stage engine bell, and a deep cryo oxidizer. In order to minimize the chance of failure, it also has added safety measures, including a redundant stage separation system and greater structural safety margins.
The flight to orbit took approximately 20 minutes.
With yesterday’s flight, SpaceX becomes the first private space company to successfully deploy a reusable rocket. It could be the next step in human spaceflight, since NASA is increasingly relying on private space companies for deliveries to the International Space Station.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense