SpaceX currently uses a non-reusable version of the Falcon 9 to launch its Dragon capsules into low-Earth orbit, on commercial resupply missions to the International Space Station. In fact, the company made such a launch yesterday.
Making its Falcon 9 a reusable launch vehicle capable of vertical takeoff/vertical landing will save the company a lot of time, money and resources in the long run, and represents a major step on the company's path to commercial spaceflight supremacy.
The F9R testing program is the next step towards reusability following completion of the Grasshopper program last year (Grasshopper can be seen in the background of this video). Future testing, including that in New Mexico, will be conducted using the first stage of a F9R as shown here, which is essentially a Falcon 9 v1.1 first stage with legs. F9R test flights in New Mexico will allow us to test at higher altitudes than we are permitted for at our test site in Texas, to do more with unpowered guidance and to prove out landing cases that are more-flight like.
As always, we're ever so pleased with the decision to shoot this most recent test launch from a hexacopter, which is fast becoming our favorite means of capturing vertical takeoff/vertical landing footage.