SpaceX recovered its Falcon 9 first-stage rocket after succeeding in launching NROL-76 for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Organization today. The recovery attempt saw the first-stage rocket fall back to earth under a controlled descent after separating from the second stage and mission payload a few minutes after launch.
SpaceX has now done four total recoveries at LZ-1 to date, starting with the first around 18 months ago. The land-based recovery is one of two ways SpaceX gets its Falcon 9 first-stage rockets back so that it can use them again, with the other being its ocean-based drone barges, which can reposition themselves autonomously to better suit the entry angle of returning craft.
The recovered Falcon 9 will be tested and then refurbished for reuse now that it’s back in one piece in SpaceX’s hands. SpaceX ultimately hopes to be able to get rockets back and ready to launch again within 24 hours. The company successfully reused its first refurbished Falcon 9 first-stage rocket in March, which it also recovered for a second time.