SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed upright on solid ground at Cape Canaveral last week after traveling to space and back, marking a landmark moment in the industry.
It’s the first time SpaceX has been able to gently touch down the Falcon 9 post-launch — something the company has been trying to do for the past year. It’s a significant first step toward reusable rockets.
This launch was also the first time SpaceX has flown since June after one of its Falcon 9 rockets exploded en route to the International Space Station. Now this return-to-flight mission has made history — no one else has ever landed a rocket that has gone as deep into space as the Falcon 9.
While a massive achievement for SpaceX, it’s not the first time a vertical take-off rocket has landed upright after launching into space. In November, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos private spaceflight company Blue Origin announced that it had landed its rocket New Shepard post-launch. However, designed to go higher in space, and much faster, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is more complex than New Shepard and its mission much more difficult.
The SpaceX landing was tougher as the Falcon 9 rocket was travelling into orbit (rather than a suborbital flight like the Blue Origin rocket), carrying 11 satellites as well.
SpaceX has made several attempts at landing the first stage of a rocket, using a barge at sea as a landing spot. However, these attempts, while coming close, were ultimately unsuccessful.
SpaceX opted to land the rocket back on solid ground again.
Gildshire Editor, Mia Russell