SpaceX has done it! The commercial space firm finally landed a rocket on a floating drone ship Friday afternoon without said rocket exploding into smithereens.
The landing was a beaut and a huge achievement for the team after four previous ocean landing attempts ended in fiery failure. Now, SpaceX can say its Falcon 9 rocket can touch down both on land and at sea.
Today’s launch sent several thousand pounds of cargo in the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, including a BEAM inflatable habitat that will be tested for possible use in future Mars missions.
Landing in the ocean may seem like an arcane accomplishment, but it means that it’s possible for SpaceX – and anyone else who can pull it off – to recover first-stage rockets after launch and potentially reuse them in later missions, saving untold sums.
I say potentially because we still don’t know what condition the Falcon 9 rocket is in and whether it will be resuable without expensive repairs. From the looks of everything, though, the rocket seems to be in good condition (that landing was nearly flawless).
SpaceX is keen on ocean landings because even though they’re harder to pull off, high-velocity missions may leave insufficient fuel for the rocket to make it back to land, as explained by TechCrunch.
You can watch a full replay of the launch and landing below, and can skip ahead to the 32 minute market for the phenomenal landing. Just try not to get goosebumps when the SpaceX team erupts with elation.
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