Miami (AFP) – SpaceX chief Elon Musk hailed a “revolution in spaceflight” after blasting off a recycled rocket for the first time Thursday, using a booster that had previously flown cargo to the International Space Station.
Experts cheered the launch as a “historic” moment for spaceflight, particularly private industry, as companies like SpaceX and its competitors scramble to lower the cost of space travel.
The slightly scuffed Falcon 9 rocket soared into the sky over Cape Canaveral, Florida at 6:27 pm (2227 GMT), on a mission to send a communications satellite for Luxembourg-based company SES into a distant orbit.
Its tall, columnar portion known as the first stage, or booster, had propelled the unmanned Dragon cargo ship to space in April 2016.
About 10 minutes after launch, cheers erupted at SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California as the re-used rocket powered its engines and landed upright on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean marked with the words “Of Course I Still Love You.”
The landing marked the ninth successful touchdown of a first stage rocket for SpaceX -– six on ocean platforms, or drone ships, and three on land.
It also marked the first time a single rocket booster had ever been launched — and landed — twice.
SpaceX, the California-based company headed by visionary entrepreneur Musk, has for 15 years been honing the technology of powering its boosters back to careful Earth landings on solid ground and in the water.
The goal of the entire effort, Musk has said, is to make rocket parts just as reusable as cars, planes or bicycles.
It is also a key part of his plan to one day establish human colonies on Mars.
“It is an amazing day, I think, for space (and) as whole for the space industry,” Musk said in a video message after the launch.
“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.”
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