Washington D.C. – SpaceX accomplished an incredible achievement yesterday evening when the first stage of its upgraded Falcon 9 rocket landed safely on solid ground in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
About three minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9’s second stage separated in the upper atmosphere and went on to place 11 communications satellites, made by the Sierra Nevada Corporation, into an orbit 400 kilometers high for ORBCOMM. The vehicle’s first stage adjusted its trajectory, reentered the atmosphere and performed a soft, precision landing. This marks the first time in history any part of an orbital rocket has achieved a land landing.
“It is clear that all of the time and hard work SpaceX spent upgrading the Falcon 9 paid off in this return to flight,” said Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. “This comes on the heels of Blue Origin’s monumental landing in November and demonstrates the rapid advancements being made in our industry. This progress over the past year is a testament to the incredible leaps forward towards complete reusability. I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store for us.”
Traditionally, the first stage of a rocket is disposed of after launch, removing an opportunity to reuse valuable hardware. But by landing and recovering the first stage, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Masten and others have an opportunity to refurbish and reuse the first stage on future launches. The Commercial space industry is looking to normalize a business cycle of reusability in an effort to drive down launch costs and make spaceflight more accessible.