Why SpaceX's Latest Successful Launch Is So Important

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SpaceX successfully launched a used rocket and a used capsule for the first time Friday, in a mission for NASA that will ferry cargo to the International Space Station, as Elon Musk's company and Boeing ( BA ) look toward major milestones for the commercial space industry in 2018.

[ibd-display-video id=2117998 width=50 float=left autostart=true] The launch, which took place on time at 10:36 a.m. ET, featured a previously flown Dragon cargo capsule and a previously flown Falcon 9 first-stage booster.

The booster successfully landed back at Cape Canaveral roughly two and a half minutes after liftoff. The Dragon capsule is set to dock with the ISS on Sunday.

SpaceX has recycled rockets as well as capsules before, but never on the same flight. For today's NASA mission, SpaceX used a Falcon 9 that was previously launched in June and a Dragon capsule that was previously used in April 2015.

The mission was originally scheduled for Dec. 8 but was delayed to Dec. 12 before being pushed back to Dec. 13 and then Dec. 15 after particles were found in the second-stage fuel system.

While the latest SpaceX launch was for NASA, its success could help the company win more contracts from the Pentagon, which is also looking at reusable rockets to help lower costs.

At the Air Force Association's annual Air Space & Cyber conference in September, Gen. John Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command, told reporters that reusable rockets were "the way the industry is going. It's cost effective." But he said the service needs to do a review to make sure they are safe.

The Air Force hasn't been so open to the idea in the past. Just last year, the director of launch enterprise for Space Command's Space and Missile Systems Center said it could be a "long time" before the Pentagon approves the use of a reusable rocket to launch national-security payloads.

Boeing shares ended virtually unchanged at 293.94 on the stock market today , while Lockheed Martin ( LMT ) rallied 1.8% to 322.82, clearing a 322.29 buy point from a flat base. Boeing and Lockheed have a joint venture, United Launch Alliance, that provides launch services for the Pentagon.

IBD'S TAKE:Investors can't get a piece of SpaceX or Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin yet. But you can discover other innovative companies on the IBD 50 list of top stocks .

Friday's Falcon launch sets the stage for SpaceX's Falcon Heavy launch.

The new rocket, which SpaceX is touting as the most powerful operational rocket in the world, is set to launch from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., next month. But no sensitive NASA instruments will be on board. Musk tweeted earlier this month that the Heavy's first payload would be his midnight cherry Tesla ( TSLA ) Roadster playing David Bowie's "Space Oddity."

The Heavy's first government payload, a GPS system, is scheduled for later next year.

The next frontier for SpaceX is sending astronauts to the ISS. SpaceX and Boeing are scheduled to test manned capsules in 2018 with manned service missions to the ISS starting in 2019.

Friday's SpaceX launch capped an eventful week for the commercial space industry.

On Tuesday, Amazon ( AMZN ) founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin launched a reusable suborbital rocket from the company's Texas launch site. Bezos hopes to start offering commercial tourism rides on the New Shepard capsule in about 18 months.


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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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