Perfect ten’s from all the judges—last night SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket made its first successful vertical landing on a pad in Cape Canaveral.
Why it’s important
This wasn’t just a demo flight. No mere test. The Falcon 9 took off for space with a payload of 11 communication satellites to be launched into orbit. Two minutes in the flight, stage one separated, turned itself around and returned to land safely on the pad at the Cape, while the upper stage continued on to successfully deliver it’s payload into orbit 800km above the Earth.
SpaceX founder, billionaire Elon Musk, says the capability to land and reuse the booster rockets will significantly reduce the cost of space flight.
Perhaps we have just witnessed the inciting incident that will kick off the great age of commercial space flight promised for so long.
Good news—private, corporate space flight company Orbital ATK successfully docked their spacecraft with the international space station last month. Good news—Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos’ New Shepard spacecraft managed to land itself on a launch pad in recent weeks.
Not so great? Elon Musk’s SpaceX craft has been grounded since it exploded during what Musk called a ‘rapid, unscheduled disassembly’ while attempting a landing earlier this year. But the Falcon 9 rocket has been updated, and now sits on a Cape Canaveral pad awaiting launch tomorrow night.
So maybe NASA’s not up to as much as it once was. But, given the strides countries like China and India have made in the last year—and the progress made by private interests…it may be that our dreams of a future in space are more realistic than ever before.