SpaceX, the company that is single-handedly trying to usher in a new era of space travel, successfully launched and then landed a rocket in Cape Canaveral early Monday morning. It is the second time they’ve managed to land one of their rockets on solid ground after a launch.
The Falcon 9 rocket took off from Cape Canaveral carrying a cargo capsule bound for the International Space Station. The company has been routinely sending supplies to the astronauts aboard the ISS since 2012, though they’ve experienced several setbacks recently with quite a few of the rockets exploding shortly after launch. Monday’s launch was successful and the Dragon capsule will be docking with ISS later this week to deliver 5,000 pounds of critical supplies.
But the bigger story is the successful landing of the first stage of the rocket after it separated from the capsule in the air. The Falcon 9 rockets are designed to be reusable so they don’t need to keep building new ones for every mission. Of the ones that haven’t disintegrated, five of them have landed safely back on Earth after a launch, but on a barge out in the ocean, which is a little easier to do. This is only the second time they’ve landed one back on the ground.
Reusable rockets are kind of a new thing. In their most active years, NASA (remember NASA?) spent billions of dollars on various rockets and shuttles that were one-time use only. If SpaceX can really master this whole launching and landing thing, it could save a lot of money in the future.
The video of the entire launch and landing is now up if you missed the livestream. Skip to 24:00 if you just want to see the landing, which is pretty cool.