SpaceX has completed the other key ingredient of its historic flight today, recovering its Falcon 9 rocket via its floating drone barge. This is a huge accomplishment because it already did this once before — with the same rocket, on the same barge, when it landed last year following a successful launch during a resupply mission to the International Space Station.
The recovery of the Falcon 9 means that not only did SpaceX reuse its rocket with this launch — it can also potentially use it again, after more stress testing and evaluation.
“It’s an amazing day for space as a whole, and for the space industry,” Musk said in an interview immediately following the recovery. “You can fly and refly an orbit-class rocket, which is the most expensive component of spaceflight.”
“It’s been 15 years to get to this point. A lot of difficult steps along the way,” Musk added. “I’m just incredibly proud of the SpaceX team for being able to achieve this incredible milestone.”
Musk reiterated a comparison he’s made before for traditional rocket flight, which is that discarding the booster after every launch is akin to throwing away an entire airplane after every flight. That, of course, would be ridiculous, which is his point — being able to reuse rockets dramatically reduces the cost of space travel, which is how SpaceX plans to eventually be able to succeed in not only business, but in making humans an interplanetary species.
It’s hard to underscore the significance of this milestone, but there’s still ample work to do: SpaceX’s goal is to eventually be able to relaunch rockets within the same day, which is obviously a feat on a different scale. Still, today proves one thing: It’s actually getting there.