It took SpaceX many attempts to successfully launch and then successfully land its Falcon 9 rocket on a floating pad in the ocean. It first achieved that feat on April 8 and was able to do so a second time earlier this morning.
SpaceX launched the Falcon 9 at about 1:21 am EST, deployed a Japanese JCSAT-14 satellite into orbit, and then made its return back to earth, with a landing confirmed at about 1:31 a.m. as the second stage rocket pushed the satellite into orbit.
Landing confirmed. Second stage continuing to carry JCSAT-14 to a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit. pic.twitter.com/HfHI5cwoYX
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 6, 2016
“This was a three engine landing burn, so triple deceleration of last flight,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter. “That’s important to minimize gravity losses.” Musk added that the rocket reentry into the earth’s atmosphere was “a lot faster and hotter” than last time, which meant the odds at a successful landing were “maybe even.”
These sorts of landings are both extremely exciting and important for the space industry. The ability to launch a rocket and then return it to a landing pad, where it can be quickly refitted to relaunch, is already changing the way we visit, explore, tour and return from space.