SpaceX Just Nailed Another Rocket Landing

(REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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SpaceX successfully landed a rocket on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean Sunday, marking the fifth time this year the company successfully recovered a rocket.

A rocket was recovered that launched a Japanese communications satellite into orbit 20,000 miles above Earth’s surface. The company has made 11 attempts to land a rocket over the past two years, and now six of its vehicles had been successfully recovered intact. The company plans to launch nine more Falcon 9 rockets this year.

SpaceX still hasn’t been able to reuse any of its rockets, but CEO Elon Musk said it will launch its first recovered rocket in September or October of this year.

A Falcon 9 launch costs around $54 million, but that’s still cheaper than NASA’s space shuttle design, which costs more than $1.6 billion per launch.

Private space companies are scrambling to pioneer reusable rocket technology to make space flights cheaper; going into space is expensive because of the costly rocket components. SpaceX’s President Gwynne Shotwell estimates reusing rockets could cause a 30 percent reduction in launch costs.

Blue Origin, a private space company set up by founder Jeff Bezos, successfully launched and recovered the first reusable rocket last November.

Blue Origin, SpaceX and other companies have been developing fully reusable rockets. SpaceX, previously failed on two separate occasions to successfully land a reusable rocket. Musk called the failure a “huge blow.”

NASA’s space shuttle was only technically reusable because its giant fuel tank was discarded after each launch, and its side boosters were parachuted into corrosive salt water every flight — which required them to be extensively refurbished after use — making it exceedingly expensive.

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