The only thing more impressive than SpaceX blastoffs may just be SpaceX landings. Early this morning, July 23, Elon Musk’s extraterrestrial focused company managed to land a rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean after launching a satellite into orbit from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
The first stage of the rocket landed on the drone ship, which is named “Of Course I Still Love You,” (because why not) at around 2:00 a.m. ET, less than nine minutes after liftoff. The landing is significant not only because it’s the first in quite some time for the startup, but also because it’s one of the very first launches or landings of the newest Falcon 9 rockets, the Block 5.
Part of the reason we’ve gone so long without seeing a SpaceX landing is that the company has been trying to get rid of its excess Block 4 rockets by refusing to land them back on Earth. That has historically always been the way that satellites and other spacecraft are launched — it’s rather inefficient, and certainly expensive and unsustainable. But SpaceX offered a real game changer to the space exploration industry with the debut of the Block 5 launcher, which is both recoverable and reusable. As such, SpaceX should be able to cut down on the expenses related to getting into space.
For this particular trip, the rocket sent the Telstar 19 Vantage communications satellite into orbit, which is tasked with providing broadband internet service for folks in the Americas. Back in May, SpaceX launched Block 5 for the first time, during which it carried Bangladesh’s very first satellite, the Bangabandhu-1. The goal is for Block 5 to allow SpaceX to complete more than two flights with the same Falcon 9 booster, which could help cut down on costs, as well as the time required between launches.
Thus far, SpaceX has not yet relaunched a Block 5 rocket, which makes sense, given that only two successful launches have been completed thus far. However, in the coming weeks and months, we can expect Musk and his team to begin putting the real capabilities of this latest rocket to the test. We’ll be sure to keep you abreast of the latest happenings.