SpaceX on Thursday became the first space company to use a recycled rocket to send a payload into orbit, paving the way for a sharp drop in launch costs that is a key part of its long-term plan to carry passengers to Mars.

The Los Angeles-based company sent a rocket into orbit using a main booster stage that first flew on April 6 last year. It also succeeded in landing the same rocket stage for a second time, laying the groundwork for using each of its rockets ten times or more.

Elon Musk, the company’s founder, called the latest mission “an amazing day for space as a whole, for the space industry. It means you can fly and refly an orbit class booster.”

Finding a way to reuse its rockets has been a central part of SpaceX’s bid to bring down the cost of reaching orbit and expanding the market for private space flight. “It’s been 15 years to get to this point. It’s taken us a long time, a lot of difficult steps along the way,” Mr Musk said.

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