Exactly a year ago now, SpaceX made a historic first-ever orbital class Falcon 9 rocket landing. On December 21, 2015, Elon Musk’s space venture company launched 11 communications satellites to orbit, while at the same time proving that its rocket-landing technology works.
And while we’ve seen all of it in footage released by SpaceX, National Geographic takes us behind the scenes, exclusively capturing Musk’s reactions as he watched the Falcon 9’s first-stage return and successfully landing at Landing Zone 1.
Since then, SpaceX has made more space deliveries (logging a total of more than 70 in its manifest), with more to come as contracts with NASA, and 6 successful Falcon 9 landings out of 11 attempts. Of these 6 landings, the SpaceX website notes only its firsts — the first landing on December 2015, and the first ocean barge landing in April 2016. The barge is actually a droneship which SpaceX has cheekily nicknamed “Of Course I Still Love You”.
Other landings worth noting include a costly one last May 2016, when a Falcon 9 rocket sustained heavy damage due to high entry velocity — this has been the company’s “life leader for ground tests,” according to Musk.
While the company is setting an example for reusable rockets, SpaceX has yet to really reuse any of preloved rockets.