SpaceX successfully launched the SES10 communications satellite on Thursday evening, with its reused first stage performing as expected and landing on an off-shore drone ship.
In a brief statement during the live webcast, SpaceX Founder and CEO Elon Musk called the flight a historic day for the company and the space industry. It had taken 15 years to get to this moment, he said.
In a video prior to launch, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the company spent about four months refurbishing and testing the first stage booster after it landed on the drone ship after launching a Dragon resupply vehicle to the International Space Station last April. That flight marked the first time a first stage had landed on the drone ship.
Shotwell said the company’s eventual goal is to land the first stage, refuel the booster, and then launch it again the same day. She did not give a time table for when such a flight would be possible.
Musk has said that such a rapid turnaround is crucial to making first-stage reuse truly economical and significantly bringing down the cost of launches.
SpaceX does not recover the second stage of the Falcon 9 booster. So any same-day re-flight would include the installation of a new second stage as well as the payload.
There were reports that SpaceX would attempt to recover the payload shroud used for Thursday’s launch for later reuse. There is no word yet on whether that effort was successful.