After a number of tries, SpaceX has finally achieved their goal of landing a Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage on one of their drone ships at sea. The landing took place following the launch that marked the first ISS supply mission undertaken by SpaceX since the accident last year, which also went off without a hitch. This is the first sea landing of a rocket to ever succeed, giving the company and their Falcon 9 rocket two historic landings in just 5 months.
With SpaceX having proven their rocket’s ability to land on both land and at sea, the potential reuse of the Falcon 9 should improve dramatically considering the main objective of mastering the rocket landing is so they can be reused. At this point, SpaceX is yet to reuse the one rocket they successfully landed at Cape Canaveral in December, instead opting to preserve it, but maybe this second surviving Falcon 9 will see another launch to prove the reusability of the craft.
Landing from the chase plane pic.twitter.com/2Q5qCaPq9P
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 8, 2016
SpaceX persisted on mastering the sea landing due to its superiority over the ground landing. Despite the seeming instability of a platform at sea, the drone ship is able to move into the rocket’s expected landing trajectory, compared to a ground landing where the rocket has a set landing location and must counter factors such as the rotation of the Earth in order to make the target. This allows the rocket to require less fuel be saved for landing, which if a heavy load was launched may render a ground landing entirely impossible. Not to mention the greater flexibility of launch locations if a rocket doesn’t require solid ground to land on afterwards.
Having succeeded in landing the Falcon 9, SpaceX must be looking to concentrate on starting to reuse the rockets they retrieve, which is the overall goal of landing them in the first place. Currently, a new rocket must be built for each launch at a cost of around $60 million, with the fuel only costing $200,000. SpaceX has shown themselves to be a company that will keep trying to achieve even greater things and the success at the sea landing after so long means that where they go from here should be exciting for everyone.