SpaceX made history at Cape Canaveral, Florida last night, December 21, when it successfully landed an intact Falcon 9 rocket upright on solid ground after traveling into space and back. Falcon 9 landing was a milestone moment for SpaceX and CEO Elon Musk. The ability to recycle the spacecrafts marks a big step toward making space travel cheaper.
It’s also the company’s first flight since June, when its unmanned spacecraft exploded shortly after liftoff and destroyed the company’s Dragon cargo ship bound for the International Space Station.
After a trouble-free countdown and liftoff at 8:29 p.m. EST today December 22 from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the Falcon 9 delivered 11 commercial satellites into low-earth orbit, for the satellite-communications company Orbcomm. The two-stage Falcon 9 separated, the second stage of the rocket with the satellites continued on to orbit and ten minutes after launching, the engines of the the rocket’s first stage reignited to turn it around, back to Cape Canaveral and set down six miles to the south at Landing Zone 1, which is a facility previously used by the Air Force for rocket and missile testing that SpaceX has leased.
‘The Falcon has landed,’ a launch commentator said when the first stage came into view of a camera near the landing site and SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, erupted in cheers, followed by chants of ‘U.S.A.! U.S.A.!’
Today’s landing was a milestone moment for SpaceX and the billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. Developing a reliable fleet of reusable rockets will definitely take many years, But it promises to be a game changer for the space industry and will open the heavens to exploration.