Last night’s Falcon 9 launch was important to SpaceX for a number of reasons. For one, it was the 20th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket, but, more importantly, it was its first flight since the incident back in June, where a Falcon 9 rocket exploded shortly after lifting off on an ISS supply mission. SpaceX wouldn’t be satisfied with just getting their rocket back in the air either, with the further aim of landing the rocket’s first stage intact on a landing pad in Cape Canaveral. This time, SpaceX pulled it off, with both the launch and landing going off without a hitch.
This launch isn’t the first time SpaceX have tried to land a rocket vertically, having made previous attempts to land Falcon 9 rockets on barges, but never quite making the mark. It is, however, a historic event in space technology, with no other rocket ever able to land vertically after an orbital trip. The success also shows SpaceX engineers constant steps to improve their rockets, with this flight (and landing), being the maiden flight of the newest version of the Falcon 9, the v1.1 Full Thrust.
11 satellites deployed to target orbit and Falcon has landed back at Cape Canaveral. Headed to LZ-1. Welcome back, baby!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 22, 2015
SpaceX believes that the success of this mission is a landmark in making space travel more affordable, as now rockets can be recovered and refurbished, instead of requiring a new unit for each launch. Entrepreneur Elon Musk, owner of SpaceX took to Twitter to proclaim the success of the launch and landing “Welcome home, baby!” The entire launch and landing were streamed live across the world from the SpaceX website, with people around the world, not just near Cape Canaveral to experience the groundbreaking event.
What this really proves to me is that despite the loss of the Space Shuttle back in 2011, the space industry still has plenty of innovation and improvement to show. Even though some would consider the return to rockets a step backwards from the Shuttle, SpaceX has shown that they can make rockets reusable, the main selling point of the Shuttle. With SpaceX now set up for a manned mission by as soon as 2017, it will be exciting to see how much they can continue to revolutionize the space industry and what long-time aerospace companies, such as Boeing can do to keep up.