SpaceX has made history by successfully launching and landing a used rocket for the first time.
The California-based company launched one of its 229-foot-tall two-stage Falcon 9 rockets at 23.27 BST last night, with the aim of recovering its first-stage booster.
While rocket sent a telecommunications satellite into orbit, the first-stage booster detached itself from its payload minutes after launch, righting itself and safely landing on a drone ship floating on the Atlantic Ocean.
The first-stage booster, described by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk as the “most expensive part of the rocket”, had previously been launched on 8 April last year.
“I think it's an amazing day for space,” said Mr Musk. “It means you can fly and re-fly an orbit class booster, which is the most expensive part of the rocket. This is going to be, hopefully, a huge revolution in spaceflight.”
SpaceX, which plans to fly two people to the moon next year, wants to be able to re-use first-stage boosters multiple times, in order to significantly reduce costs.
“With this being the first re-light we were incredibly paranoid about everything,” added Mr Musk.
“It's been 15 years to get to this point. I'm at a loss for words.”
Traditionally, nearly all rocket parts crash to the ground or the ocean following launch, and are either destroyed or never seen again.
According to Gwynne Shotwell, the COO of SpaceX, recycling rocket boosters could give customers a 30% discount on a Falcon 9 rocket launch, which costs around $62 million.
Looking ahead, the company will carry out similar testing with more used rocket boosters and also focus on increasing the speed of turnaround.
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