Imagine if after every flight in an airplane you had to destroy the thing and build a new one from scratch. Sounds ridiculous, right?
It is hard to understate how much of an achievement reusability represents in terms of the future cost of spaceflight. With SpaceX looking to get turnaround times down to under 24 hours with little to no maintenance cost, soon the most expensive part of the launch will be the fuel, and launches could drop to as little as one tenth of their current cost.
And with the cost of launches dropping, it becomes more financially viable to launch a larger volume of smaller, less costly payloads, making spaceflight more accessible for smaller organisations and potentially even private individuals.
California's SpaceX company has successfully re-flown a segment from one of its Falcon 9 rockets. The first-stage booster, which was previously used on a mission 11 months ago, helped send a telecommunications satellite into orbit from Florida's Kennedy Space Center. It marks an important milestone for SpaceX in its quest for re-usability. Traditionally, rockets are expendable - their various segments are discarded and destroyed during an ascent. The California outfit, in contrast, aims to recover Falcon first-stages and fly them multiple times to try to reduce the cost of its operations. And to emphasise this point, Thursday's booster was also brought back under control to land on a barge stationed out in the Atlantic. "I think it's an amazing day for space," said Elon Musk, the chief executive of SpaceX.