History was made on April 8, 2016 as a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral at 4:43 pm. The mission was nothing unusual as the focus was to deliver materials to the International Space Station. The Falcon 9 rocket was boosting a Dragon cargo ship into orbit which houses the material for the station. The Dragon cargo ship was packed with 3.5 tons of supplies including a new innovative inflatable habitat module for testing as a future space habitat, materials for several science experiments, and other key devices that keep the station operational.
8 minutes and 35 seconds after the launch the reusable main stage booster successfully landed vertically on an offshore drone barge in the Atlantic Ocean. This is one of the most amazing things that the world has ever seen. The previous attempts to accomplish the landing have not ended smoothly, which shows the continued innovation and improvement from the engineers at SpaceX.
So why is this such a big deal? This is a huge development and the latest step towards reaching consistent, perfect reentry and landing techniques so that the main booster can be recovered, recycled, and relaunched in the future. Elon Musk's vision is to drastically open the doors for space exploration and eventually enter the consumer markets. His biggest challenge is the cost to manufacture a rocket. In order to reach the goals within SpaceX, Musk has to achieve consistent and dependable reusability of materials.
According to Elon Musk, "The cost to refuel our rocket, it's mostly oxygen on board, is only $200,000 to $300,000, but the cost of the rocket is $60 million." "Fully and rapidly reused, it's somewhere on the order of a hundred-fold cost reduction. You still have your fixed costs, but in marginal costs it's a hundred-fold reduction."
This is an exciting advancement from a company that was the underdog. It will be interesting to continue following Elon Musk on his pursuit to change the world.