Five years ago, if you launched a rocket into space, it was a kind of death sentence. Most of the technology was doomed to either burn in our atmosphere or plunge to a watery death in the ocean. But in December of 2015, SpaceX changed everything. For the first time ever, the first stage of an orbital rocket successfully returned to Earth and landed vertically.
Since that time, SpaceX has launched and successfully landed dozens of rockets. And just a few short days ago, they achieved another milestone — they managed to simultaneously land all three of the Falcon 9 rocket boosters that make up the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle.
This was SpaceX's second launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, and the first time they landed all three rocket cores from one flight. The first time the attempt was made, only the two outer cores returned to Earth in one piece. The center core experienced a fuel shortage and smashed into the ocean going roughly 300 miles per hour (482 km/h).
This time, the two outer cores of the rocket touched down on two concrete landing pads at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Simultaneously, the central core landed on a drone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. The achievement is a great step forward when it comes to the development of reusable rockets.
Ultimately, this reusability has several advantages. For starters, it allows for a marked increase in flight rates. Estimates indicate that the technology should easily double the number of flights possible from a production and logistics standpoint. Additionally, reusable rockets are ideal use cases for both Lunar and interplanetary missions. As SpaceX notes, building off world bases will require us to affordably delivery significant quantities of cargo and people, and these reusable rockets bring us one step closer to the kind of fully reusable starship system that would make these affordable deliveries possible.
But more than this, SpaceX’s achievements remind us of what we can accomplish when we question the old ways of doing things and imagine new systems and possibilities. See this remarkable achievement unfold in the video below.