SpaceX makes history by launching recycled rocket

SpaceX has successfully re-launched one of its Falcon 9 rockets, marking the first time an organisation has been able to send an orbital-class booster into flight after recovering it from a previous launch.

The achievement has the scope to radically shake up the economics and practicalities of space travel, potentially consigning astronomically expensive, single-use rockets to the galactic bin. While it took SpaceX close to a year to turnaround the repurposed Falcon 9 (which originally launched in April 2016), the space firm’s aim is to manage this within a single day. If it achieves this, it could lay the groundwork for more ambitious journeys, including return missions to Mars.

“We’re not one-way trip to Mars people; we want to make sure people can come back,” explained SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell ahead of the launch. “And that means you need a reusable rocket system.”

SpaceX founder Elon Musk said it had been “a huge day,” and reiterated the firm’s aim to reuse a rocket within 24 hours.

“The potential is there for [an] over 100-fold reduction in the cost of access to space,” he said. “If we can achieve that, it means humanity can become a space-faring civilisation and be out there among the stars. This is what we want for the future.”

Thursday’s Falcon 9 launch was used to put a communications satellite in order, for Luxembourg-based satellite-operator SES SA. The satellite will help to provide TV services to Latin America.

To cap it all off, the booster detached itself from the rest of the rocket during the launch, and successfully touched down on a sea-based landing pad – meaning it could, in theory, be repurposed once again. However, this particular booster will be donated to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport for display, seeing as it’s history-making and all that.

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