Elon Musk wants to save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars by launching rockets cheaper.
For the past several years he’s been working on the problem. First he was toying around with a “Grasshopper” rocket to see if it might be possible to launch and then safely reland part of a rocket. SpaceX then scaled up Grasshopper into the reusable Falcon 9 rockets that have become a mainstay of space launch, landing some on dry ground and others at sea. Next came the invention of recoverable and reusable space capsules, and finally boats outfitted with giant nets to capture falling rocket fairings before they fall into the sea.
Step by step, Musk has learned to recover the bulk of the value of each rocket launched, saving money by not having to rebuild more and more parts and, instead, using them over and over again.