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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk confirmed today that a Falcon 9 rocket successfully made a soft landing in the Atlantic Ocean. While a soft landing will ultimately allow the private spaceflight company to re-use rockets, this particular one will probably not be used again due to damage it sustained in the ocean.
The landing was a major step in the company’s evolution as it came after a mission to the International Space Station. TIME notes that SpaceX has attempted soft landings before, but this was the first successful one after a mission to space.
“We have sensors on each individual leg [of the rocket]” and “GPS units,” Musk said during a press conference. “They all agree [that it landed stably]. If we recover it from the ocean it’ll probably take a couple of months to refurbish for flight.”
As Wired notes, Musk has been trying to achieve a soft landing since he started SpaceX. If SpaceX can successfully land a rocket that can be re-used, that would significantly cut down the cost of flights. They hope to lower the cost of a single flight to $5 million to $7 million.
Musk didn’t have only good news to share during the press conference in Washington, D.C. Fox News reports that he also announced plans to sue the U.S. Air Force to allow SpaceX to conduct national security-related launches. He said that the government unfairly supports Boeing and Lockheed Martin’s joint venture United Launch Alliance, which uses Russian-made engines for its Atlas V rocket.