SpaceX pulls off first reused rocket mission

SpaceX pulls off first reused rocket mission

The unprecedented twin achievements of re-launching a used rocket and salvaging the vehicle yet again were hailed by billionaire SpaceX founder Elon Musk as a revolutionary step in his quest to slash launch costs and shorten intervals between space shots.

Musk says his next goal is reuse a rocket booster, without refurbishment, within 24 hours - perhaps as soon as later this year.

"This going to be, ultimately, a huge revolution in space flight", he said from Nasa's Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida. "My mind is blown, frankly".

Elon Musk suggested Friday that when SpaceX does its first demonstration flight of the Falcon Heavy large payload rocket later this year, it might also include an attempt to return the upper stage back to Earth. "It is extremely important to retain, for more than just the purposes of prestige, the status of a great space state, which has to correspond totally with new work, new ideas and new technology", he said.

The launch was particularly special since achieving rocket reusability is a development that is expected to usher in a new era of launches at a reduced price. It was also home to the first and final flights of the Space Shuttle program, a spiritual predecessor with a similar goal of cost savings through re-use. "The first reflight of an orbital class booster did its mission perfectly, dropped off the second stage, came back and landed on the droneship, right in the bullseye".

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Recycled rockets were once derided as an impractical flight of fancy but they are at the heart of his - and others' - vision to drive down the costs of space-travel and make it viable on a much grander scale. Musk has always been a proponent of colonizing the planet Mars and he has used his considerable wealth to develop reusable rocket technology.

SES has a long history with SpaceX. A SES spacecraft was on board for SpaceX's first commercial satellite launch in 2013. "It's a bit sooty", he said with a smile.

Its tall, columnar portion known as the first stage, or booster, had already propelled the unmanned Dragon cargo ship to space in April 2016.

He said it is also a crucial part of his plan to one day establish human colonies on Mars.

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