In their drive to achieve the goal of reusable rockets, SpaceX has spent the past few years running their Falcon 9 rocket through the most rigorous of tests. And while they have achieved a soft landing once before, SpaceX has been unable to safely land their rockets at sea, despite several attempts. This has been an important step in the development process, as it would mean that the Falcon 9 can be landed under the most difficult of conditions.
But earlier today, SpaceX finally reached that milestone as their CRS-08 mission, which was launched from Cape Canaveral at 4:43 pm (ET), made it back to Earth in one piece. After sending its payload of a Dragon Capsule to rendezvous with the International Space Station, the first-stage rocket successfully made a soft landing on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. This one achievement brings SpaceX one step closer to fulfilling the goal Musk founded the company upon, which is achieving cost-effective, commercial spaceflight.
Below are the videos released by SpaceX earlier today, showing the successful landing of the CRS-08 mission. The first was taken by the chase plane which filmed the rocket’s descent and landing, while the other is from from the rocket’s own on-board camera. As you can see from the footage, the rocket landed smoothly despite the presence of high winds and a little chop from the seas.
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The landing also occurred amidst a great deal of fanfare, with Musk and others loudly cheering from Mission Control as they watched the rocket touch down on the seaborne landing pad. Shortly thereafter, celebrities ranging from Buzz Aldrin to President Obama began to chime in on the historic accomplishment, offering their compliments to Musk and the company he founded.
“Congrats SpaceX on landing a rocket at sea. It’s because of innovators like you & NASA that America continues to lead in space exploration,” said President Obama via Twitter. Aldrin also tweeted his congratulations over the landing, but lamented that he couldn’t watch the landing live because he was on a flight to LA at the time.
The Dragon Capsule which was deployed by the CRS-08 mission is scheduled to rendezvous with the ISS on Sunday, delivering over 3175 kilograms (7000 pounds) of experiment and supplies for the station’s Expedition 47 crew. As for SpaceX, they expect to be busy in the coming months and years. With a landing at sea down, Musk believes they are well on their way towards their ultimate goal, which is making space exploration accessible and affordable.
“For half our missions, we will need to land out to sea,” Musk said at a press conference held shortly after the landing. “Anything beyond Earth is likely to need to land on the ship… This a really good milestone for spaceflight [and] another step towards the stars.”