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via Los Angeles Times

SpaceX on Thursday launched and landed a first-stage rocket booster that had previously flown — a milestone that could signal a new era of low-cost space transportation.

The successful launch of the commercial communications satellite on the recycled Falcon 9 rocket could lower launch costs as much as 30%, if SpaceX is able to make the procedure routine.

SpaceX employees at the company’s Hawthorne headquarters cheered and clapped as they watched the first-stage booster touch down on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean named Of Course I Still Love You.

On the company’s live webcast, SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk said he was at a loss for words.

“It’s been 15 years to get to this point,” Musk said. “A lot of difficult steps along the way. It’s a great day, not just for SpaceX, but for the space industry as a whole.”

Impending launch of private craft to International Space Station

Reusability is a crucial part of Musk’s larger goals. His plan to colonize Mars revolves around a reusable rocket system that could see spaceships being used 12 to 15 times.

Long before that, SpaceX plans to increase its satellite and cargo launch cadence, which analysts said would be aided by having reliable, reusable rocket boosters.

But that depends on turning around each first-stage booster relatively quickly and cheaply. The company will also have to determine how many times its boosters can be used without sacrificing reliability.

“What this means is that if you can reuse this over and over again, the economies of scale are just going to be incredible,” said Marco Caceres, senior space analyst at Teal Group.

“You’ll be able to conceivably get the prices of these launch vehicles down to rates that nobody conceived of,” he said. Read More