Video released today by SpaceX confirms the landing legs deployed successfully on the Falcon 9′s first stage booster, paving the way for future vertical soft touchdowns on land. SpaceX's next-generation Falcon 9 rocket was tested following the launch of the CRS-3 mission for the Dragon spacecraft, which launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on April 18. This was the first test of the landing legs deployment with a re-entry burn and soft landing in the Atlantic Ocean.
The SpaceX CEO had mentioned the success during a post launch briefing and later tweeted further updates that the Falcon 9 first stage actually made a good water landing despite rough seas, with waves swelling at least six feet. He also spoke briefly of the success during a news conference at the National Press Club on April 25, saying video would be released soon.
The video above is actually a cleaned-up (repaired) version of the original. There are a short few frames which show the landing legs deployed just before splashdown, which Musk highlighted in a recent Tweet. Obviously this is not the greatest-quality video ever released, but exciting still the same. SpaceX is actually looking for help in cleaning up the video even further.
Falcon 9 onboard camera shot right before splashdown. Full vid posting shortly to t.co/0ibzGWMxzu. pic.twitter.com/RXcKJ1d36G
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 29, 2014
"I'm happy to confirm we were able to do a soft landing of the Falcon 9 boost stage in the Atlantic and all the data we received back shows that it did a soft landing and was in a healthy condition after that," Musk said at the April 25 news conference. Before the launch, SpaceX had estimated a 30 – 40 percent chance of successfully recovering the Falcon 9 first stage.
While rough seas made it impossible to recover the booster, it does mean that SpaceX successfully demonstrated the capability of landing the first stage back on land, helping to reduce costs by making them reusable.
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