After several failed attempts over the last year or so, SpaceX has successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on an at-sea drone ship.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 8, 2016
While this isn’t the first time the company has landed a spent rocket stage, doing it at sea (as opposed to at Cape Canaveral in Florida) should work in SpaceX’s favor in their quest to lessen the cost of future flights by reusing these vehicles. Landing at sea also means the company should be able to recover rockets from a wider range of mission types and launch locations.
SpaceX isn’t the only company racing to build a reusable rocket. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin just flew the same rocket for the third time. That is an impressive feat, but it’s important to remember that Blue Origin’s flights are suborbital And squarely within the confines of R&D. SpaceX’s primary objective today was to fly supplies to the International Space Station; the test landing was secondary to the paying work of taking equipment and food to low-Earth orbit.
Differences aside, both companies are well on their way to reusable rockets, which will allow for cheaper and safer travel to space. The future is here, and it’s on the back of rockets that can be used, refurbished and launched again.