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.
SpaceX successfully launched and landed a recycled rocket on Thursday, a first for Elon Musk's company and a move that could help slash the cost of cargo transport into space. SpaceX inspected and refurbished the first stage for reuse, breaking the normal paradigm of rocket launches in which spent boosters are jettisoned and disposed in the ocean.
FILE - SpaceX founder Elon Musk speaks during the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, Sept. 27, 2016. "It means you can fly and refly an orbital class booster which is the most expensive part of the rocket", he added. "This is going to be, ultimately, a huge revolution in spaceflight", he said. The rocket could apparently be used a third time following a successful landing aboard a barge off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Fla. "It's like its own little spacecraft". SpaceX claims that its Falcon 9 Heavy will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two. By comparison, ULA's Delta Heavy rocket used by the Air Force runs roughly $375 million per mission, though that price tag includes a variety of mission assurance initiatives to guarantee there won't be a launch failure.
The Falcon 9 rocket, which jetted into space a year ago, launched successfully on March 30 for the second time. During the demo, the company might also include an attempt to reland and retrieve the upper stage of the rocket. The Falcon Heavy is the higher variant of the Falcon 9 launch vessel and is made of a common Falcon 9 rocket core, with two extra strap-on boosters, anchored in the first stage of Falcon 9 rocket. And it also goes down if the objective is to reuse the rocket. Musk's ultimate goal is to establish a human settlement on Mars. Currently, millions of dollars' worth of rocket parts are jettisoned after each launch.
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Musk also hopes to get the launch and relaunch turnaround down to 24 hours.
Blue Origin, an aerospace company started by another tech billionaire, Jeff Bezos, already has reflown a rocket.
Thus, the typical cost of a SpaceX launch of $62 million might be reduced to $43 million - a considerable contribution to the satellite company's bottom line.
While the exact life of the re-used boosters is uncertain, Musk said they could be redeployed anywhere from 10 to 100 or even 1,000 times, depending on how much refurbishment is needed. "It's taken us a long time [with a] lot of hard steps along the way".