Elon Musk’s SpaceX flew a reused rocket to space and back again, a key milestone to reducing launch costs and one day enabling people to live on other planets.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rumbled aloft, deposited a customer’s satellite into orbit, stuck its landing on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean and drew raucous cheers from the crowd gathered Thursday at the company’s California headquarters. The moment was 15 years in the making for Musk, who founded SpaceX with the eventual goal of colonizing Mars.
“This is going to be, ultimately, a huge revolution in spaceflight,” Musk, 45, said from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Much of the expense of space travel lies in building engines, capsules and other equipment that are typically used once and then discarded. Billionaires including Musk and Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos are racing to make rocket reusability -- once dismissed as a crazy idea -- a reality that will dramatically reduce costs.
“Congrats @SpaceX on another historic launch!” NASA tweeted Thursday.
SES, which has flown with SpaceX twice before, was the first commercial satellite operator to launch with the company back in 2013. Though the price of the launch was not disclosed, Chief Technology Officer Martin Halliwell said SES received a discount for being first in line.
Musk announced last month that SpaceX plans to send two private citizens who paid “significant deposits” on a week-long flight circling the moon in late 2018.
“I’m sort of at a loss for words,” Musk said on the SpaceX webcast Thursday. “It’s really a great day, not just for SpaceX but for the space industry as a whole and proving that something could be done that many people said was impossible.”
By Dana Hull