A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket recovered at sea from its maiden flight last year blasted off again from Florida in the first successful launch of a recycled orbital-class booster.
It took Space Exploration Technologies Corp, as the California-based company is formally known, 15 years to demonstrate that a rocket typically discarded in the ocean after a single flight could be recovered and reused.
The Falcon 9 booster, which previously flew in April 2016, lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center to put a communications satellite into orbit for Luxembourg-based SES SA.
The booster’s main section then separated from the rest of the rocket and flew itself back to a landing pad in the Atlantic, where it successfully touched down for its second at-sea return.
SpaceX landed an orbital rocket after launch for the first time in December 2015, a feat it has now repeated eight times.
The Falcon 9 booster launched for the company’s 33rd mission was also the first to make a successful return landing in the ocean.
By reusing rockets, SpaceX aims to eventually cut its costs by about 30%, the company has said. It lists the cost of a Falcon 9 ride at $62 million but has not yet announced a price for flying on a recycled rocket.
The boosters are expected to be able to fly ten times with no refurbishment and about 100 times with moderate reconditioning.
SpaceX also is working on a passenger spaceship, with two unidentified tourists signed up for a future trip around the moon.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk described this as a revolutionary step.