Reusable orbital booster planned
California space-launch entrepreneur Elon Musk said his company will try to develop an orbital booster system with components capable of flying back to Earth for reuse.
Musk, founder of Space Exploration Technologies, described the plan in a speech to the National Press Club in Washington.
Both of the rocket's stages would return to the launch site and touch down vertically, under rocket power, on landing gear after delivering a spacecraft to orbit.
Musk said he was not sure the engineering challenges that have doomed other efforts to build a fully reusable rocket could be overcome until about 12 months ago.
His company, known as SpaceX, is currently working to demonstrate that its huge Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule can ferry supplies to the international space station now that Nasa has retired its space shuttle fleet.
A flight to the space station is planned for January.