In the six years since Must first announced his reusable rocket program ambitions, SpaceX has attempted to nail post-launch booster landings multiple times (sometimes with good results and sometimes with not-so-good results), all with the ultimate goal of reducing the cost of launches by eliminating the need to build costly new rockets after every successful lift-off.
The nose cone, also known as the fairing, protects the rocket's payload (in last night's case, the SES-10 communications satellite) as it blasts into the black at hypersonic velocities. "My mind's blown, frankly", Musk said.
The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 6:27 p.m. ET from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral before settling on a droneship named "Of Course I Still Love You" in the Atlantic Ocean about 10 minutes later. "This is an historic milestone on the path to complete and rapid reusability", said Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO at SpaceX "We are pleased to have accomplished this milestone with SES, which has been a strong supporter of SpaceX and innovation over the years".
"Following the commercial model, a rapidly reusable space launch vehicle could reduce the cost of traveling to space by a hundredfold".
What was noteworthy was that the first stage, or booster, of the rocket had flown once before.
"It did this mission perfectly", said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
Le Pen: I will quit office if French reject eurozone exit
Le Pen's chances of winning have been aided by a scandal that has ensnared her opponent, Republican Party candidate Fillon. In an interview previous year with CNN, Le Pen said she was left with no choice after French banks turned her down.
Until now, nearly all rockets have been single-use.
The flight is historic because rockets are not typically reused; they splash into the ocean. Upgrades are planned to shorten that turnaround time to be measured in days and so that each rocket can be reused up to a dozen times. Luxembourg operator SES collaborated on the test project, and its chief technology officer said it was a significant day for the industry. SES's portfolio includes the ASTRA satellite system, which has the largest Direct-to-Home (DTH) television reach in Europe, and O3b Networks, a global managed data communications service provider. Blue Origin secured the patent on the idea, but SpaceX issued a legal challenge in 2014 and won a partial victory in 2015. It means you can fly and re-fly an orbit class booster, which is the most expensive part of the rocket.
The main segment of its Falcon 9 rocket was previously used on a mission in 2016.
The booster for Thursday's flight had been part of the rocket that carried cargo supplies to the International Space Station for NASA in April.
SpaceX also is working on a passenger spaceship, with two unidentified tourists signed up for a future trip around the moon. Putting the satellite into the planned geostationary transfer orbit would use most of the on-board fuel, although SpaceX didn't disclose exactly what percentage.