Elon Musk’s SpaceX has made history this by sending its first recycled rocket back into space.
In what was billed as a ‘revolutionary’ achievement for space technology, the firm’s Falcon 9 blasted off from Cape Canaveral at 6:27 pm ET (11:27 pm BST), before landing back on the firm’s drone ship for a second time.
It was pictured soaring toward space above a Virgin Airlines passenger jet, which had just departed Orlando International Airport.
It is the first time the firm has reused a booster, which previously sent food and supplies to astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
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A recycled SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars toward space above a Virgin Airlines passenger jet, which had just departed Orlando International Airport, in Orlando, Florida, March 30
The launch marked the first time ever that a rocket was reused for spaceflight. It is seen above soaring past a Virgin Airlines jet
The Falcon 9 rocket which will send a satellite into space to provide TV and internet services launched today from Cape Canaveral at 6.27pm eastern time (11.27pm BST).
‘We’ve had an incredible day, an amazing day for space as a whole, and for the space industry,’ said Elon Musk.
‘It’s been 15 years to get to this point, but I’m just incredible proud of the SpaceX teram for being able to achieve this – I’m sort of at a loss for word.’
Standing tall at the Nasa launchpad, the white Falcon 9 rocket contained the tall, column-like booster stage of the vessel.
This propelled the unmanned Dragon cargo ship to the ISS last year, before returning to an upright landing on an ocean platform.
SpaceX hopes that by repeating this success it will prove the long-term viability of reusable rockets – which could dramatically costs and waste in the space industry.
Its goal is to send the SES-10 satellite – built by Airbus Defence and Space – into orbit around the planet.
The satellite will be used to provide direct-to-home television and high-speed data services across Latin America and the Caribbean.
SES was an early supporter of SpaceX, the rocket builder’s first commercial customer and the first to sign up for a ride on a ‘flight proven’ booster.
Seconds after blast off the Falcon 9 rocket was seen streaking into the sky over Cape Canaveral
After the launch, the Falcon was able to return to Earth, deploying its steering ‘wings’
Touchdown! Right on schedule the rocket made another perfect landing on SpaceX’s drone ship
‘Having been the first commercial satellite operator to launch with SpaceX back in 2013, we are excited to once again be the first customer to launch on SpaceX’s first ever mission using a flight-proven rocket,’ Martin Halliwell, chief technology officer at SES, said.
‘We believe reusable rockets will open up a new era of spaceflight, and make access to space more efficient in terms of cost and manifest management.’
The Dragon, which was first launched on April 8, 2016, was the first the firm managed to land on a droneship.
After recovery, it was taken back to Port Canaveral and subjected to a detailed post flight inspection.
THE REUSABLE ROCKET RACE
Reusable rockets would cut costs and waste in the space industry, which currently loses millions of dollars in jettisoned machinery after each launch.
Russia, Japan and the European Space Agency are also developing similar technology and are in testing stages.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com and owner of The Washington Post newspaper, said last month that Blue Origin expects to begin crewed test flights of the New Shepard, the company’s flagship rocket, next year and begin flying paying passengers as early as 2018.
The Indian space agency also hopes to develop its own frugal shuttle, as it seeks to cash in on a huge and lucrative demand from other countries to send up their satellites, after a successful test launch last month.
The Dragon cargo ship which will send a satellite into space to provide TV and internet services is scheduled to launch today from Cape Canaveral at 6:27 pm eastern time (11:27 pm BST).
SpaceX test fired the nine first-stage engines of a previously flown Falcon 9 on Monday (pictured). Today’s historic launch will see the Dragon take to the skies again at 6:27 pm eastern time today (11:27 pm BST)
It was then refurbished, tested again and prepared for its second launch.
On Monday, the firm test fired the nine first-stage engines of the previously flown Falcon 9 booster stage in the final pre-flight test in anticipation of today’s launch.
‘Static fire test complete. Targeting Thursday, March 30 for Falcon 9 launch of SES-10,’ the firm tweeted following the tests.
In the test, the rocket’s nine Merlin 1D engines roared to life at 2 p.m. EDT (GMT-5) for three seconds at pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center.
Known as a ‘hot-fire’ test, it is a routine pre-flight procedure for SpaceX to help engineers verify the rocket is ready for launch.
SpaceX has made 13 attempts to recover first stages after launch, successfully bringing back eight boosters to date.
THE DRAGON’S FIRST MISSION
The first stage assigned to the SES-10 mission was first launched on April 7, 2016, helping boost a SpaceX cargo ship into orbit to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.
The first stage completed SpaceX’s second successful landing, its first on a droneship.
After recovery, the stage was hauled back to Port Canaveral and subjected to a detailed post flight inspection. It was then refurbished, tested again and prepared for its second launch.
It was the fifth attempt at landing the rocket upright – a feat that could pave the way for cheaper space travel.
SpaceX has succeeded in landing its Falcon 9 rocket on a barge in the Atlantic ocean. It was the firm’s fifth attempt at landing the rocket upright
It follows four failed landings by SpaceX on an autonomous barge, and one successful landing on solid ground in December.
Before coming back down to Earth, the rocket launched nearly 7,000 pounds of cargo to the International Space Station, including an inflatable ‘space house’.
Elon Musk hailed the landing as ‘another step to the stars,’ at a Nasa press conference.
He revealed the firm plans to relaunch the same rocket.
‘We’re going to wash it down, fill it with fuel, and launch it again,’ he said.
‘The plan is to bring it to port, pick it up with a crane and fold the legs up and put it on a truck to bring it back to Pad 39A.
‘We’ll do ten test firings, and if that goes well and we think we’ll be comfortable with an orbital flight.’
Musk revealed how tough the landing was, saying there were winds of 50mph at sea above the drone ship.
‘The craft tilted into the wind as it descended due to 50mph wind,’ he said.
He said future landings were expected to be half on ground and half at sea.
Five of those landed on off-shore drone ships while three returned to landings at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Last month amazing video shows the historic moment the first stage of the Falcon 9 touched down at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral on the launch pad.
The SpaceX rocket descended through the clouds before landing right in the middle of the pad, a perfect landing after a rocky start.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk captioned the video on Instagram: ‘Baby came back’
In June last year Elon Musk announced the same Falcon 9 rocket, which launched the Thaicom 8 communications satellite, was back in the hangar with the three other first stages that had also made it safely back on the ground. All four pictured in the hangar
The rocket has landed five other times successfully on sea platforms but this is the first time on land.
This is the first SpaceX mission to take off from the pad, and the first in Florida since last September.
One of the company’s rockets exploded on another Cape Canaveral pad, severely damaging it.
It is also the third SpaceX rocket to land on solid ground.
The moment indicates that NASA’s moonshot pad is back in business.
Falcon 9 touched down at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral in 2016, on the launch pad that was was used to send Neil Armstrong to the moon
Lift off: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39A in April 2016 – the same spot from which astronauts flew to the moon 48 years ago. It carried 5,000 pounds of supplies to astronauts on the ISS. It landed again after the mission
SpaceX has only landed a rocket safely on solid ground two times before, although it has made other landings on sea platforms. The pad it launched from has been leased from NASA for the next six years
The rocket, which was sent up from the same spot from which astronauts flew to the moon 48 years ago, carried a Dragon supply ship containing food and other goods for the six astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
The pad – at Launch Complex 39A – has been leased by SpaceX for the next six years. It was last used for NASA’s final shuttle mission nearly six years ago.
After it had launched from Launch Complex 39A and made the payload, the booster rocket was returned safely to earth at a different part of Cape Canaveral.
That made it the third SpaceX rocket to be successfully landed on solid ground, and the first to do so in daylight. Five other successful landings have been made on sea-based platforms.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk captioned the video of Falcon 9’s return on Instagram: ‘Baby came back’