Watch SpaceX finally land a Falcon 9 rocket on a droneship [VIDEO]
Rocket was carrying a Dragon capsule and 7,000 pounds worth of supplies destined for the International Space Station.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — April 8 was a special day not only for Elon Musk’s SpaceX, but also for the future of space exploration.
The Hawthorne, Calif.-based rocket manufacturer founded by Musk, who is also the face of electric car-maker Tesla Motors, finally brought one of its Falcon 9 rockets back to earth, landing the massive spacecraft onboard a drone ship off the Florida coast after several near misses, including a failed attempt in January after the rocket tipped over and exploded.
The Falcon 9’s payload – a SpaceX Dragon capsule housed in the rocket’s second stage – was successfully delivered to orbit. It was carrying more than 7,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station, including the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, an inflatable test platform for expandable habitats in space that adds about 556 cubic feet of space to the ISS.
The Dragon capsule successfully linked with the ISS over the weekend.
The successful landing of the Falcon 9 is a huge step forward for SpaceX, which has been promising to bring a rocket back to earth for some time now with the hopes of proving it could significantly cut rocket launch costs. Typically, rockets are for single-use, with the first stage falling off and dropping into the ocean. Each Falcon 9 costs about $60 million to build, but requires only $200,000 worth of fuel to launch. SpaceX estimates it can reduce launch costs by about 30% by refurbishing its rockets.
In a post-launch (and landing) interview, Musk suggested that the rocket could be launched again in June, but it will instead be used as a study subject for future launches. Watch his post-launch press conference below.
SpaceX chose to land the rocket on a drone ship, which is much more difficult than landing on solid ground, because the rocket doesn’t need to propel itself back towards land, wasting a lot of fuel. Instead, the drone ship is positioned downrange to, in simple terms, “catch” the rocket as it comes back to Earth.
An incredible feat, that’s also incredibly important for the future of space exploration.