SpaceX successfully landed a reusable Falcon 9 rocket on a floating drone ship at sea early today after the vehicle had sent a Japanese communications satellite into orbit. The California-based company’s launch and landing was part of its ongoing effort to re-use costly rocket parts instead of jettisoning them into the ocean.
The white rocket launched under a dark night sky from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 1.26 AM (local time). The landing on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ drone ship was especially challenging because the ‘JCSAT-16’ satellite had to be carried into geostationary transfer orbit, or GTO, a highly elliptical orbit.
“The first-stage will be subject to extreme velocities and re-entry heating, making a successful landing challenging,” Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, known as SpaceX, had said prior to the mission.
SpaceX mission control erupted in cheers as live video footage showed the successful landing of the first stage of the rocket.
The communications satellite will help provide more stable satellite services for video distribution and data transfer communications in Asia, Russia, Oceania, Middle East and North America.
In June though, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 failed to land on an ocean barge after launching two satellites from Cape Canaveral, Florida. At the time, SpaceX boss, Elon Musk said via Twitter that there was a problem with one of the three engines used to slow the first-stage booster for landing. But with the latest success, SpaceX has now managed to launch its rockets at sea four times, and so far six of the company’s rockets have been recovered.
For space travel, a reusable rocket means a significant drop in cost and makes these missions much more affordable. While SpaceX has had considerable success with its reusable rockets, it has not yet sent any of these back into space.
With AFP inputs