5th time's the charm: SpaceX finally lands on its drone ship in the ocean
SpaceX did it.
On Friday, after four near-misses, the private spaceflight company managed to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
"Fifth time's the charm," one of the company's webcast hosts said during the SpaceX webcast of the launch and landing.
Photos from today's launch:
The webcast showed a beautiful image of the stage landing as the crowd in mission control celebrated.
This isn't the last time SpaceX will try to land their rocket on a barge.
"The next two or three flights are going to be drone ship landings -- there's no choice there, because we can't get to land," Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX's vice president of flight reliability, said during a press conference ahead of the Dragon launch.
"So it's [this launch] a good opportunity for us to refine our drone ship landing capabilities and get this done, because in the long run it's certainly something that we need to demonstrate over and over again to get the first stage back."
The private spaceflight company successfully landing a rocket stage back on dry land in 2015, when it brought a booster back from space after launching a clutch of satellites to orbit.
Before bringing the booster back for a safe landing on the drone ship, the Falcon 9 sent an uncrewed Dragon spacecraft on its way to the International Space Station.
The Dragon is loaded down with thousands of pounds of supplies for the six crew members onboard the space laboratory.
This launch marks the first Dragon mission since a Falcon 9 disintegrated above Florida just after launch in June.
Landing is essential to SpaceX's vision
Eventually, SpaceX wants to produce a host of reusable rockets in order to greatly reduce the cost of launching to space.
Those rocket stages should be able to land on both a drone ship and dry land, depending on the needs of the mission.
For example, it's easier to land a rocket on a drone ship after launching a high velocity mission, while it's better to bring a launcher back to land for other missions.
Basically, you might need more fuel for one mission versus another, so that dictates where a booster can land.
If the reusable rocket plan is a success, it could change the way rockets work today.
At the moment, most rockets burn up in the atmosphere after sending payloads on their way, essentially wasting the hardware after one use. But if companies can bring rocket stages back to the ground, they could be reused, saving money and time between missions.