Elon Musk’s dream of carrying cargo to space cheaply took a promising step forward after SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket touched down with landing legs yesterday.
Falcon 9 has spent the past week deploying six satellites for global messaging provider Orbcomm.
Technical hitches meant it took four launches to get them there, but the landing was every bit a success, according to SpaceX.
Although it soft-landed in the Atlantic Ocean, Falcon 9 made the first deployment of its landing legs.
“This test confirms that the Falcon 9 booster is able consistently to reenter from space at hypersonic velocity, restart main engines twice, deploy landing legs and touch down at near zero velocity,” it said.
You can see the landing legs in action from on-board Falcon 9 as it re-enters Erath’s atmosphere and touches down:
SpaceX said the rocket suffered some damage on impact with the water, but they received enough information to save it in future missions.
“At this point, we are highly confident of being able to land successfully on a floating launch pad or back at the launch site and refly the rocket with no required refurbishment,” it said.
That means, broadly speaking, cheaper launch costs for SpaceX clients.
The company is already far beyond competitive with its space cargo pricing. According to spacenews.com, AsiaSat has paid SpaceX $52 million appiece for two upcoming satellite launches.
As a backup in case SpaceX can’t launch, it will pay Musk competitor International Launch Services $107 million for just one launch.
SpaceX is contracted to launch another 11 satellites to complete Orbcomm’s constellation of M2M messaging satellites late this year or in early 2015.
It has six more launches planned this year, including three NASA missions to supply cargo to the international space station.
According to satellite contractor, Sierra Nevada Corp, all six Orbcomm’s satellites deployed their solar arrays and antennas and were communication with Orbcomm’s Earth stations.
Orbcomm says the new satellites will give its business partners access to “faster message delivery, larger message sizes and better coverage at higher latitudes, while also increasing network capacity.”
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.