When SpaceX gets it right, it really gets it right.
The Elon Musk-founded private spaceflight successfully landed a Falcon 9 rocket back on Earth after launching a secret payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office to orbit.
The landing — back on solid ground at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral, Florida — looked surreal against the backdrop of a clear blue sky just after sunrise.
Because SpaceX was launching at the Cape and not on a drone ship in the ocean, the company was able to track almost every stage of the landing using cameras on the Falcon 9 booster and off.
One camera even caught the first stage of the Falcon 9 as it made its flip in the air to come back for a landing after sending the secret spy satellite on its way.
We also got two shots of the rocket coming back to Earth the whole way down.
These landings look incredibly cool, yes, but they’re also key to SpaceX’s business plan.
The private company wants to create a fleet of reusable rockets to reduce the cost of launching to space in the future. Instead of using a booster once and discarding it, SpaceX plans to use its rockets multiple times for many different missions, refurbishing them in between.
SpaceX already relaunched (and re-landed) a Falcon 9 booster that had previously been to space, and the company plans to launch more soon.
Video credit: Storyful/SpaceX