In what could be a cost-saving paradigm shift for the aerospace industry, Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. of Hawthorne landed its Falcon 9 rocket vertically on earth Monday night after sending about a dozen satellites into space.
The launch and landing was the company’s first attempt since June, during which a previous rocket exploded mid-flight. The mission was also the first time SpaceX has successfully landed a rocket after sending it into space. SpaceX has previously failed at attempts to land its Falcon 9 rocket on a water barge.
SpaceX’s rocket deployed 11 satellites for telecommunications company ORBCOMM of Fort Lee, N.J. after lifting off from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The devices completed a 17-satellite, low-orbiting constellation that will help facilitate communications for Internet of Things devices.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch and landing comes after Blue Origin of Kent, Wash., founded by Amazon.com Inc.’s Jeff Bezos, last month launched a smaller payload-less rocket into space and landed it back on earth vertically, a first in rocket history. SpaceX landed a rocket named Grasshopper vertically two years ago, but that one didn’t go into space.
The ability to land vertically is prized because it allows rockets to be reused, substantially reducing costs and increasing the frequency of launches. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket reportedly costs about $55 million to build.
“Elon can't say this, but ‘nail in the coffin’ for traditional launch industry,” tweeted Peter Diamandis, chief executive of Culver City’s XPrize Foundation, a non-profit that awards cash prizes for science and engineering accomplishments. “No way to compete with Falcon-Reusability & performance.”
Musk also sits on XPrize’s board of trustees.
Inexpensive rocket travel will fundamentally change the space industry, Diamandis said in a follow-up email to the Business Journal.
“Lower launch costs mean more space-related endeavors, more startups, more space tourism, more space businesses,” he said. “It will be hard for any company to possibly compete unless the U.S. government keeps them in business to maintain a second supplier.”