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It’s the first time a booster rocket has made hypersonic reentry into the atmosphere intact and then splashed down gently without benefit of parachutes. Today’s flight was a major milestone in SpaceX’s quest for reusable orbital rockets. The company is already the cheapest launch provider in the world. Reusing its boosters, something no one else is able to do, would allow the company to radically change the spaceflight industry, essentially producing the iPhone of rockets, the machine everyone else will have to emulate to stay in business.
The first stage booster for today’s flight was equipped with landing legs, marking a first for an orbital vehicle. After SpaceX’s first attempt to bring a booster safely back after launch, in November, the booster safely reentered the atmosphere but began spinning, which ultimately resulted in a loss of control and break up on impact with the Pacific Ocean. After that flight, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said he thought landing legs would have stabilized the vehicle enough to let it touch down gently.
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