SpaceX's new high-res images get up close and personal with historic rocket landing

12 pictures

After delivering 11 communications satellites into low Earth orbit for the Orbcomm-2 mission, the booster re-entered the atmosphere and made its historic touchdown at Landing Zone 1(Credit: SpaceX)

View gallery - 12 images

SpaceX made history yesterday, successfully landing a first stage rocket booster after carrying cargo into space. If you caught this landmark event live, or in the near aftermath, then chances are it was via the exhilarating but distant SpaceX stream. The company has now released a set of high-res images offering a more detailed look at its achievement.

The collection of images document a period of around 10 minutes after SpaceX's Falcon 9 first stage rocket booster first launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. After delivering 11 communications satellites into low Earth orbit for the Orbcomm-2 mission, the booster re-entered the atmosphere and made its historic touchdown at Landing Zone 1.

If the feat can be repeated and previously launched boosters can be used again, it would mean big things for space exploration by greatly reducing the costs involved. Musk says that each Falcon 9 rocket costs US$60 million, while the propellant for each launch costs $200,000 or so. "The potential cost reduction over the long term is probably in excess of a factor of 100." Musk told reporters following Monday's launch.

The future for this particular rocket might not be so action-packed, however. Although SpaceX will carry out testing on the Falcon 9 to ensure everything is still in working order, Musk is quoted as saying it most likely won't fly again. "I think that we will probably keep this one on the ground, just because it's kind of unique, it's the first one that we have brought back."

You can click through to the photo gallery for a closer look at SpaceX's watershed moment.

View gallery - 12 images

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