SAN PEDRO (CBSLA.com) – Dozens of visitors were getting a closer look Wednesday at the remarkable 160-foot-tall SpaceX rocket booster, one day after it arrived at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro.
On Saturday, the Falcon9 rocket was launched into space from Vandenberg Air Force Base north of Lompoc and successfully steered onto a specially-made barge in the Pacific. The rocket and barge were then towed to San Pedro, waiting to be retooled and reused.
“I grew up in the early years of the space age, this is beyond anything I could have imagined,” visitor Ted Jennings told KCAL9.
The successful mission sent 10 telecommunications satellites into space and marked SpaceX’s first mission since a fireball engulfed a similar rocket on a Florida launch pad in October of last year.
About nine minutes after liftoff Saturday, the Falcon9 rocket’s first stage landed on the barge, eliciting cheers from the SpaceX control room.
SpaceX’s effort to recover Falcon first stages is intended to reduce costs by recycling a major piece of the launch system.
“A cost of a launch is very expensive and this is a way to reduce the cost, makes it more competitive for the whole industry,” Jennings said.
“SpaceX is really working on reducing the costs of putting satellites up, and this is really amazing work,” visitor Shane Zhang said.
The first stage contains tanks for liquid oxygen and kerosene as well as nine engines that power the rocket and payload into space. The booster separates two and a half minutes into flight as the single-engine second stage ignites and continues on to place payloads in the proper orbit.
The first Falcon booster to safely land back on Earth now stands outside the company’s Hawthorne headquarters.
The rocket from this week’s mission will remain parked at the AltaSea marine research center until it is taken in to SpaceX headquarters to be retooled for another flight, the Orange County Register reported. SpaceX did not confirm how long the rocket would be parked at AltaSea.
This was the seventh time SpaceX has been successful landing a rocket booster on a barge or on land. SpaceX, founded by tech billionaire Elon Musk, has six more launches planned from California this year.