SpaceX Successfully Land Falcon 9 Rocket on Drone Ship

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.

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.

SpaceX to Resume Supplying the ISS

The date of SpaceX’s next resupply mission to the ISS has been announced by NASA to take place on April 8th. SpaceX will be delivering the cargo onboard one of their Falcon 9 rockets, launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida at around 4:43 PM Eastern Time.

This will be the first time that SpaceX have made a launch to resupply the ISS in almost a year, the last cargo mission taking place in July 2015 ending in failure. On that launch, the Falcon 9 rocket exploded just minutes after launch, which was later reported by SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, to be caused by overpressure in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank. Following this, the Falcon 9 returned to service in December last year, where it was also able to land successfully. Since then, there have been a number of Falcon 9 launches, and while a number of those have also exploded, it was only when they were attempting to land at sea following the mission, with one attempt coming very close to success.

Once again, SpaceX plans to attempt one of their famous rocket landings following the upcoming mission. Refusing to admit defeat and repeat the previously successful ground landing, they plan to land the rocket on a drone ship at sea and, this time, Musk is confident that the landing will succeed. Should a successful sea landing happen, it will not only be another historic feat for SpaceX, but it will also allow the company to recover and reuse an increasing number of their rockets that are launched. As well as delivering much-needed supplies and experiments for the astronauts aboard the ISS, the Dragon cargo capsule that the Falcon 9 carries will also have some important cargo to carry back to Earth, though in a far less impressive fashion than landing a rocket.

Like any SpaceX launch, this could have a very interesting result for the space industry, or at the very least an impressive explosion for those watching the event that will likely be live streamed. Musk and many others will certainly be hoping for the fifth time to be the charm for the sea landing, as well as a successful launch marking the resuming of their ISS resupply runs.

Image credit to SpaceX