SpaceX, Elon Musk’s private space company, has just reached another impressive milestone. This weekend, they successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon spacecraft into low orbit, left the spacecraft behind at the International Space Station and then flew the booster back to earth, landing it perfectly.
As ArsTechnica reports, this makes SpaceX now three-for-three in its Falcon 9 boosters at Landing Zoe 1 on the Florida Coast Launch Complex. Interestingly, the Florida Coast Launch Complex was previously used by NASA for its moon and Space Shuttle Missions. SpaceX is now leasing Complex 39A from NASA, half of the government’s landing complex there.
The unmanned Dragon Space Craft that was left behind carried 2.5 tons of food, water and scientific equipment to the International Space Station.
This all happened after Musk called off the Falcon 9’s first launch when engineers discovered minor problems with the rocket’s steering systems. They were able to quickly make fixes and launch the rocket on Sunday by simply lowering the rocket to a horizontal position, replace some parts and get it back up and running.
After the repairs early Sunday morning, Musk posted a beautiful shot of the booster section landing horizontally, framed by the murky Florida skies, with a simple caption: “Baby came back.“ A few hours before that, NASA released video of the Dragon cargo spacecraft (you can call it a space drone) opening its hatches to reveal solar arrays.
The space age is back, and this time it’s in the hands of our greatest nerds and capitalists.