With a gigantic flame and a burst of smoke, a Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Saturday evening. The rocket had been employed to launch a reusable Dragon cargo vessel to the International Space Station. Lowering itself perfectly onto the landing platform, a SpaceX live stream provided an epic view of the Falcon’s descent.
Saturday was a historic launch date for SpaceX and NASA, with the Dragon being the first of its kind to be relaunched, coinciding with the one hundredth launch from the Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center.
The launch had been delayed from its original June 1 date due to lightning. Earlier Saturday, SpaceX had announced that the weather remained a watch item for the launch, but by the 5:07 p.m. Eastern Time countdown, favorable conditions had prevailed.
Lauren Lyons, a systems certification engineer hosting the SpaceX livestream explained that the short distance of Saturday’s trajectory allowed for the Falcon to make it all the way back to Zone 1, which came with a number of advantages. Without having to land on SpaceX’s autonomous space port drone ship out in the Atlantic ocean, Falcon 9 avoided being exposed to elements like salt, water and sea air.
This also leads to a faster recovery time for the Falcon 9. “By landing right at the Cape, we can more quickly step into post flight inspections and refurbishments,” Lyons said.
SpaceX is determined to increase the reusability of its Falcon 9 rockets, which come with a price tag of $62 million each. Reusing the rockets saves the company $46.5 million and gets SpaceX closer to its goal of cheaper, more accessible spaceflight.
This was the eleventh Commercial Resupply Services mission — dubbed CRS-11 — from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The Dragon is tasked with delivering critical cargo to aid in science and research aboard the International Space Station.
Watch the full webcast from Saturday here:Photos via SpaceX