SpaceX Launches Its Reusable Rocket

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound Friday

As a test, SpaceX outfitted the fairing with thrusters and a steerable parachute. CEO Elon Musk told reporters it was "the cherry on the cake" for what was already a very historic day.

Mr Musk announced last month that SpaceX plans to send two private citizens who paid "significant deposits" on a week-long flight circling the moon late next year. But SpaceX has been working for years to change that and lower the cost of spaceflight.

As for the cost of Thursday's launch, Martin Halliwell, chief technology officer at SES, has declined to say publicly the exact amount.

Remote sound-triggered cameras around launch pad 39A captured stunning views of Thursday evening's launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on the first reflight of an orbital-class booster.

The rocket also made history the two times it landed on a platform - called a droneship - about the size of a football field in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

While the exact life of the re-used boosters is uncertain, Musk said they could be redeployed anywhere from 10 to 100 or even 1,000 times, depending on how much refurbishment is needed.

SpaceX originally used the first-stage Falcon 9 booster to launch a Dragon spacecraft in April to transport 7,000 pounds of cargo to the International Space Station as part of the Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA. Musk wrote on Twitter Thursday night that his next goal is to launch and land the same rocket twice within 24 hours.

The company prices a "reusable" Falcon 9 mission at between $42 million and $61 million each. Originally slated to fly in 2013, Falcon Heavy is now expected to fly late this summer.

Perhaps more important to Musk's visionary reputation, the same techniques will likely make portions of the planned Falcon Heavy rocket recoverable, increasing the feasibility of Musk's planned colonization of Mars.