Thursday's success takes Elon Musk one step closer to his ultimate dream of one day launching crewed missions to Mars.
It was one giant leap for SpaceX on Thursday evening when it successfully completed the first reflight — and landing — of an orbital class rocket.
Elon Musk and his team have completed numerous rocket launches and landings over the last 16 months, but bringing a Falcon 9 rocket back home for a second time takes the development of its reusable system to the next level as it continues in its quest to drastically reduce the cost of space travel.
Following the historic landing, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that he was “incredibly proud of the SpaceX team for achieving this milestone in space,” adding, “Next goal is reflight within 24 hours.”
Incredibly proud of the SpaceX team for achieving this milestone in space! Next goal is reflight within 24 hours.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 30, 2017
Did you get that? The private space company’s next aim is to land a rocket and have it firing on all cylinders again within the space of a day.
The used Falcon 9 launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 6:27 p.m. ET on Thursday, returning to an ocean-based barge off the coast of Florida a short while later after successfully deploying a commercial communications satellite for Luxembourg-based firm SES.
Speaking soon after the rocket touched down, Musk said it “did its mission perfectly” before landing “right on the bullseye” of the barge. He added, “This is going to be a huge revolution in space travel. It’s the difference between … if you threw away an airplane after every flight versus you could reuse them multiple times.”
In April last year, the same rocket delivered an unmanned Dragon cargo ship to space destined for the International Space Station before returning to the barge for a smooth touchdown. The same rocket could now be used for a third mission.
SpaceX has now made nine successful rocket landings — six at sea and three on land —as it continues to perfect its technology ahead of its first crewed tests, possibly next year.
This week’s achievement will be a huge boost for the SpaceX team following a difficult period toward the end of 2016 when one of its rockets exploded on the launchpad. The company returned to flight in January this year, while Thursday’s effort shifts SpaceX’s ambitious project forward significantly as it looks toward launching missions into deep space and one day sending people to Mars