SpaceX, the vaunted rocket company owned by investor and entrepreneur Elon Musk, reemerged months after a crash with its best success yet. He has said the ability to return his rockets to Earth so that they can be refurbished and reflown would slash his company's operational costs in the burgeoning and highly competitive private space launch industry.
Last night SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 rocket into orbit and landed the first stage vertically on a Cape Canaveral pad. It was also the first time a rocket successfully launched a payload into space and returned to Earth intact.
Several attempts to land the Falcon 9's first stage on a floating ocean platform have failed - with the rocket either colliding with the autonomous drone ship or tipping over.
The latest rocket launched by SpaceX named Falcon 9 v1. Traditionally, rockets are disposed of after they detach from the space shuttle.
SpaceX's rocket deployed 11 satellites for telecommunications company ORBCOMM of Fort Lee, N.J. after lifting off from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
SpaceX finally guided a reusable rocket safely back to Earth after liftoff on Monday. A rocket planning to deliver supplies to the International Space Station disintegrated before reaching its destination six months ago. The rocket successfully turned around, slowed from hypersonic speeds and hit its target on the barge. The first attempt ended in an explosion, and the booster tipped over the second time. "I think we'll probably keep this one on the ground, just [because] it's kind of unique, it's the first one we've brought back", he said. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk provided live updates of the event via Twitter, and SpaceX posted a video showing the mission in its entirety to YouTube.
Musk says a Falcon 9 costs in the range of $16 million, but the fuel (mostly oxygen and a gas) costs only $200,000 per launch.