Mr Musk's U.S. aerospace company, SpaceX, successfully launched the Falcon 9 rocket at Florida's historic Kennedy Space Centre on Thursday. It'll have less capacity for actual mission launches, however, and capacity also goes down if the intent is to reuse the rocket, rather than expend it entirely in a single mission. And while it already ironed out most of the issues brought about by using three cores, the demo flight will still be very risky.
Since the successful landing of a rocket's first stage in April of 2016, SpaceX engineers have spent the a year ago going over the craft, cleaning it and prepping it for another voyage. SpaceX quotes the cost of the Falcon 9 rocket at $63 million, but Musk, its CEO, estimated the cost of the fuel alone at $200,000.
"It's an incredible day I think for space as a whole", Musk said after the landing.
Thursday night's launch from Cape Canaveral by Space-X might be otherwise unremarkable, except that the rocket itself, was a used model. That presents a major threat to competitors including United Launch Alliance, and should shore up SpaceX profits that were recently revealed to be thin and inconsistent. It proved not only that the first stage of SpaceX's $62 million Falcon 9 rocket can be re-launched to orbit, but that it can be successfully recovered a second time. It was fitting, he noted, that the rocket took off from NASA's Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, the starting point for the Apollo moon shots decades ago.
Afterward, an elated Musk said the event marked the first re-flight of an orbital-class booster.
SpaceX - which aims to launch up to six reused boosters this year - is familiar with uncharted territory.
Landing the upper stage rocket is an extremely complicated feat considering the second stage flies much further from Earth.
NASA also has shared the quest for rocket reusability.
Experts cheered the launch and landing of the previously used booster as a "historic" moment for spaceflight, particularly private industry, as companies like SpaceX and its competitors scramble to make space exploration cheaper and more efficient.
The re-launching of a rocket is a step toward making future rockets reusable.