SpaceX completed its 19th successful landing of a rocket launched into orbit Monday, making further progress toward billionaire CEO Elon Musk’s goal of creating reusable space hardware.
Reusable rockets and space vehicles, Musk believes, will slash the cost of space exploration.
Monday’s launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center — SpaceX’s 15th this year — thrust a Falcon 9 rocket topped with a South Korean company’s communications satellite into orbit, space.com reports.
The rocket’s first stage touched down about 8.5 minutes after it launched, making a precision landing on a SpaceX drone ship stationed a few hundred miles off the Florida coast. Its second stage blasted on a distant geostationary transfer orbit. About 35 minutes later, it deployed its Koreasat-5A communications satellite, which will serve broadcast and broadband customers in South Korea, Japan and other countries.
“A little toasty, but stage one is certainly still intact on the drone ship,” SpaceX lead mechanical engineer John Federspiel said, referring to a quickly extinguished fire that smoldered at the booster’s base soon after landing.
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SpaceX has not always enjoyed such smooth sailing. In September 2016, a Falcon 9 rocket exploded during a test firing due to an issue Musk said had “never been encountered before in the history of rocketry.”
Founded by Musk in 2002, SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches spacecraft and advanced rockets toward the ultimate goal of enabling human life on other planets.