SpaceX racked up another first on Friday, launching a recycled rocket with a recycled capsule on a grocery run for NASA. The unmanned Falcon rocket blasted off with a just-in-time-for-Christmas delivery for the International Space Station, taking flight again after a six-month turnaround, the AP reports. On board was a Dragon supply ship, also a second-time flier. It was NASA's first use of a reused Falcon rocket and only the second of a previously flown Dragon. Within 10 minutes of liftoff, the first-stage booster was back at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, standing upright on the giant X at SpaceX's landing zone. That's where it landed back in June following its first launch.
Reusability is the future for spaceflight, according to NASA's station program manager Kirk Shireman. "The reality is, the business of space is dominated by launch costs ... so getting the costs down is important for everyone," Shireman says. NASA flew its first reused capsule back in June. But managers waited until SpaceX had three rocket reflights under its belt, before putting NASA's station equipment and experiments on a secondhand Falcon. Jessica Jensen, a SpaceX manager, says the company aims to reuse rockets—and capsules—far more than twice. The only way to get thousands of people into space—the ultimate goal of chief executive Elon Musk—is by drastically cutting launch costs, she says.
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