Led by Elon Musk, the new age rocket company Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) achieved another milestone by successfully landing its first Falcon 9 rocket back at the California base after around 8 minutes of lift-off.
The feat was achieved on Sunday evening as the company launched an earth-imaging commercial satellite for Argentina called SAOCOM 1A. The successful launch marked the company’s 17th such mission of the year. The Falcon 9 rocket took off from the Vandenberg Air Force Base on California’s central coast at around 7:21 pm local time, according to LiveMint. The rocket’s first stage successfully returned and landed at the Vandenberg base eight minutes after taking off, while the second stage accomplished the successful deployment of SAOCOM 1A after around 12 minutes of the launch.
SpaceX Continues with Successful Launches
The success achieved in the safe return of the first stage is significant for SpaceX as the company is looking at a reduction in launch cost through such measures. It has already achieved success in the recovery of rocket boosters several times during the past missions, both on earth and on drone ships at the sea. Boosters are shorter-burning rocket motors/engines that are used alongside the main rockets to augment the space vehicle's takeoff thrust and payload capacity during initial stage launch.
The privately held SpaceX is headed by Elon Musk, who is also the CEO of the publicly-listed electric car company Tesla Inc. (TSLA). Though the various issues at Tesla have been giving Musk a hard time this year which recently saw him being ousted from Tesla’s board of directors, the continuous run of positive developments at SpaceX come as a sigh of relief. (For more, see Elon Musk Out as Board Chair of Tesla, Settles With SEC.)
SpaceX’s valuation has reached around $28 billion as it continues to make successful launches and aims to increase its market share through the innovative use of technology and new age initiatives. SpaceX now ranks third among the most valuable venture-backed startups in the U.S. after Uber Technologies Inc. and Airbnb Inc. The company had made a record 18 successful launches last year and remains on track to surpass that figure this year.
The company also has a contract with NASA under the agency's Commercial Crew program through which it will ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station. Though the first flight has been postponed a couple of times, the company has finalized the latest schedule with plans to have the first demonstration fight by January next year and transport American astronauts by June. (See also, Musk Succeeds with SpaceX's Falcon 9 Launch.)
Last month, the company announced that Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa plans to fly around the moon on the company’s BFR rocket in 2023. (For more, see SpaceX Has Signed Its First Passenger to Fly Around the Moon.)