SpaceX has achieved a double triumph on Monday, successfully returning its upgraded Falcon 9 rocket to flight after an explosion earlier this year and demonstrating the industry's first successful rocket landing during a commercial mission.
‘Welcome back, baby,’ SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted shortly after the first stage of his firm’s Falcon 9 rocket smoothly descended onto the launch pad in Cape Canaveral from which it blasted off into space only a few minutes earlier.
The feat, achieved during Falcon’s first flight since the explosion in June, which destroyed the Dragon cargo ship carrying supplies to the International Space Station, is a major breakthrough not only for SpaceX, but for the whole industry.
Enabling rockets to land, be refurbished and re-flown, would slash the cost of launches by a factor of a hundred, Musk predicts.
The upgraded 23-storey tall rocket delivered 11 ORBCOMM communication satellite into the low Earth orbit. The satellites will provide machine to machine communication for Internet of Things applications on Earth.
Last month, SpaceX’s lesser known competitor Blue Origin, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, successfully performed a first stage landing of its suborbital rocket during a test flight.
However, SpaceX’s landing took place during a regular commercial mission.
SpaceX previously experimented with landing its rockets on an ocean platform, but yesterday’s landing in Cape Canaveral was the first completed without any problems.
Watch Falcon 9's groundbreaking landing on a launch pad: