SpaceX successfully recovered its first stage Falcon 9 rocket during a launch on Saturday, marking the 7th rocket recovered overall, and the first one for this drone landing barge, ‘Just Read The Instructions.’ The recovery was captured on video from the rocket’s perspective, too, so you can see the entire process as it touches down.
The first time SpaceX successfully recovered a Falcon 9 first stage at sea using a drone ship was on April 8, 2016, and the last time was in August, during a launch that preceeded the September 1 explosion. It has recovered a total of five first stages using autonomous barges, which correct themselves for sea conditions and coordinate with the rocket for successful recoveries.
Recovering these stages is key to SpaceX’s mission of bringing down the cost of space flight, which serves its larger goal of making humanity an interplanetary species. Spacex currently charges around $60 million on average for a launch, which is drastically less than its competitors in the commercial spaceflight industry – but it enjoys only very thin margins on each launch as a result.
Re-using Falcon 9 first stage components for multiple missions would greatly increase its ability to make money on each individual launch, since you don’t have to then build an entirely new rocket every time you want to send something into space. SpaceX isn’t yet re-using the first stage Falcon 9 rocket sections it recovers, but it is studying them to help maximize the efficacy of the recovery process, and it said today that it plans to run its first mission with a recovered rocket stage sometime “soon.”