Reused SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches Satellite into Orbit—And Somehow Survives, Again

2_1_SpaceX CRS-13 Mission
SpaceX launches a Falcon 9 rocket for the previous CRS-13 mission, December 15, 2017. SpaceX/Public Domain

Yesterday, SpaceX successfully launched a satellite into orbit from from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a reused Falcon 9 rocket The company had already announced it would not attempt to recover the first stage of the rocket once it fell to Earth.

Lo and behold, they didn't even have to try.

To the surprise of even Musk himself, the rocket survived its water landing and was pictured bobbing in the sea.

This rocket was meant to test very high retrothrust landing in water so it didn’t hurt the droneship, but amazingly it has survived. We will try to tow it back to shore.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 31, 2018

This launch sent the GovSat-1 communications satellite into orbit for the Luxembourg government and satellite operator SES.

The first stage of the Falcon 9 previously helped launch a National Reconnaissance Office payload in May 2017.

Successful deployment of GovSat-1 to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit confirmed.

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 31, 2018

This was SpaceX's last launch before the maiden voyage of the Falcon Heavy— set to become the most powerful operational rocket in the world. If all goes to plan, the Falcon Heavy should blast off next Tuesday, carrying Musk's own Tesla Roadster sports car into space. Musk is also CEO of Tesla.

Musk's tweet revealed the company was testing a "very high retrothrust landing" this time around. Usually a landing uses just one of the rocket's nine Merlin engines. Replying to comments to his tweet, Musk confirmed that SpaceX fired up three engines for this particular journey home.

Falcon 9's launch of GovSat-1 to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit is SpaceX's sixth mission with a flight-proven rocket.

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 1, 2018

For water landings, the company often lays on a drone ship to catch the rocket with pinpoint accuracy. The supercharged landing, it seems, could have damaged one of these boats. As The Verge reports, SpaceX will probably need its Florida-based drone ship for the launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket.

The company will attempt to salvage the rocket from its watery grave, the tweet suggests. Whether it will be used again in any form remains to be seen.

This is the sixth time SpaceX have reused one of its boosters. Last December, the company sent 4,800 pounds of supplies, equipment and scientific research to the International Space Station using a reused Falcon 9 rocket. Making reusable rockets commonplace should cut the cost of spaceflight dramatically.