NEW YORK — SpaceX celebrated Earth Day by revealing a stunning photograph of the Earth captured during the company’s historic launch last month.
The company — which is headed by Tesla’s Elon Musk — made a massive leap toward making spaceflight more affordable when it sent the same first-stage rocket booster to space on a second mission.
It was the first time an orbital class rocket has ever made two trips to space.
The goal was to deliver a communications satellite, called SES 10, into orbit. Not only did the used rocket deliver on that promise, the rocket was also again guided to a safe landing back on Earth. And, for the first time, at least part of the spacecraft’s fairing — the portion that houses the satellite during the trip — was safely recovered. That part of the rocket costs about $6 million, according to SpaceX.
That fairing also managed to snap some photographs as it was hurled through space, before it made a splash landing in the ocean, where it was recovered by SpaceX. Those photos show a dazzling view of the Earth and sun.
The SES10 mission proved the same first-stage rocket booster — which Musk says accounts for about 70% of the cost of building a rocket — can survive the strain of spaceflight and be used again.
The rocket won’t fly a third time. Musk said he plans to donate it to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, where the historic mission launched.
But the company has recovered seven other first-stage rockets, and it plans to complete as many as six more launches with used rockets this year.