SpaceX have done it again! For the second time this year, the company have successfully landed a rocket stage at sea.
The Falcon 9 rocket was launched into space on Friday 6 May to transport a Japanese satellite called JCSAT-14 to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).
Following stage separation, the first stage of Falcon 9 attempted an experimental landing on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship. There were doubts that it would land on the platform because the satellites destination would subject the rocket to extreme velocities and re-entry heating.
Despite this, the rocket landed on a floating drone ship at sea, making it the third booster brought back to Earth in a controlled manner by SpaceX.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 6, 2016
The first one was landed in December 2015, but on hard ground, after previous attempts to land a rocket at sea had failed.
However, in April 2016 they managed to achieve an ocean landing, proving their ability to land rockets on both solid ground and the ocean.
The second landing at sea was a lot harder to accomplish, as the rocket in April was used for a NASA resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS), and only had to launch the payload to low-Earth orbit.
The rocket that landed this month was launching a satellite to GTO at an altitude of 36,000 km, which means the rocket was travelling twice as fast compared to the one used for the ISS resupply mission. This required more speed to be bled away before the rocket could successfully set down on the ship.
After confirmation of the third rocket landing, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted the joke: “May need to increase size of rocket storage hangar.”
SpaceX have several more flights planned for the rest of year and intend on attempting further landings at sea so they can perfect the process.
If they continue to be successful, the Falcon 9 rockets can be recovered and refurbished, rather than building new vehicles, which will cut down the launch costs by about 30%.
Author: Araminta Hartley, Content Writer
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