9th April 2016
SpaceX lands Falcon 9 rocket on a floating drone ship
In a historic achievement, private U.S. aerospace company SpaceX has successfully landed a Falcon 9 rocket – part of the CRS-8 mission – on a floating drone ship for the first time. This follows their earlier milestone in December 2015 when a similar attempt resulted in a landing on solid ground.
CRS-8 is a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. It was the tenth flight for SpaceX's uncrewed Dragon cargo spacecraft and the eighth operational mission contracted to NASA under a Commercial Resupply Services contract, which followed the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet back in 2011. Several previous attempts to land at sea have all resulted in failure. On this occasion, however, the first stage successfully landed on the floating platform named Of Course I Still Love You, 300 km from the Florida coastline, as seen in this video.
Propellant costs for a rocket are much lower than the costs of hardware. The ability to re-use rockets – instead of them being discarded and burning up on reentry – could therefore slash the cost of spaceflight. An ocean landing requires less fuel than a ground landing, due to flight paths being more direct and less curved, which provides yet another efficiency improvement and makes this latest achievement even more notable.
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