SpaceX to recover the Falcon 9 rocket it planned to lose

Elon Musk's rocket company sent a Falcon 9 to space for its second mission with no plans to land and bring it home. But Musk just couldn't say goodbye.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
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Eric Mack
2 min read

A recycled Falcon 9 carrying GovSat-1 awaited launch in Florida.


SpaceX has a hard time letting go of its rockets. 

A big part of the mission of Elon Musk's commercial space company is to drive down the cost of accessing space by making the rockets that get us there good for more than just one use. The company has achieved that goal by recovering and reusing a handful of its Falcon 9 rockets. This week it may even be able to recover a rocket that it was prepared to let sink to a watery grave.

The company launched a recycled Falcon 9 on Wednesday from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The rocket carried the GovSat-1 satellite to orbit, and SpaceX had with no intention of landing the rocket's first stage, either ashore or on a platform at sea. But it turns out that the rocket may be coming home after all. 

After the successful satellite deployment, Musk tweeted a photo of the Falcon 9 first stage floating on its side in the Atlantic Ocean. 

"This rocket was meant to test very high retrothrust landing in water so it didn't hurt the droneship, but amazingly it has survived," Musk tweeted. "We will try to tow it back to shore."

The rocket had already completed one successful mission before the GovSat-1 launch, when it sent a National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite to space last year. It's not clear whether the rocket will be in decent enough condition to be re-purposed for a third mission, but at least it probably won't end up on the ocean floor as a home for bottom-dwellers. 

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