SpaceX lands rocket at sea second time after satellite launch

May 6, 2016 by By Marcia Dunn
This photo provided by SpaceX shows the first stage of the company's Falcon rocket after it landed on a platform in the Atlantic Ocean just off the Florida coast on Friday, May 6, 2016, after launching a Japanese communications satellite. (SpaceX via AP)

For the second month in a row, the aerospace upstart SpaceX landed a rocket on an ocean platform early Friday, this time following the successful launch of a Japanese communications satellite.

A live webcast showed the first-stage booster touching down vertically in the pre-dawn darkness atop a barge in the Atlantic, just off the Florida coast. The same thing occurred April 8 during a space station supply run for NASA. That was the first successful landing at sea for SpaceX, which expects to start reusing its unmanned Falcon rockets as early as this summer to save money and lower costs.

Because of the high altitude needed for this mission, SpaceX did not expect a successful landing. But it was wrong. As the launch commentator happily declared, "The Falcon has landed."

SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk was even more exuberant. "Woohoo!!" he exclaimed in bold letters via Twitter.

"May need to increase size of rocket storage hangar," he added in a tweet.

Musk said this was a three-engine burn for the booster's return, "so triple deceleration from the last flight." Before liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida, he put the chances of a successful touchdown at "maybe even" because the rocket was coming in faster and hotter than last time.

This photo provided by SpaceX shows the first stage of the company's Falcon rocket after it landed on a platform in the Atlantic Ocean just off the Florida coast on Friday, May 6, 2016, after launching a Japanese communications satellite. (SpaceX via AP)

Musk contends rocket reusability is key to shaving launch costs and making space more accessible.

SpaceX is the only company to recover a rocket following an orbital launch. It achieved its first booster landing—on solid ground at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station—in December. A landing at sea proved more elusive and required several tries.

Blue Origin, led by another wealthy high-tech entrepreneur, Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com, has landed and even reflown its booster rockets, but those did not put anything into orbit.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lights up the sky during a launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch complex 40 early Friday morning, May 6, 2016, in Fla . Aboard is the JCSAT-14 communications satellite. SpaceX has done it again. For the second month in a row, the aerospace company landed a rocket on an ocean platform, this time following the launch of a Japanese communications satellite. (Craig Rubadoux/Florida Today via AP)

Following last month's landing, Musk said he plans to fly that booster again, possibly as soon as June. The first recovered booster, from December, will grace the entrance of SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

Already in the delivery business for NASA, SpaceX hopes to start transporting U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the end of next year in the company's next-generation Dragon capsules. But its ultimate goal is Mars.

In a groundbreaking announcement last week, Musk said his company will attempt to send a Red Dragon to Mars in 2018—and actually land on the red planet. His ambition is to establish a city on Mars.

He also runs Tesla Motors, the electric car company.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launches the JCSAT-14 communications satellite at Cape Canaveral, Fla, early Friday, May 6, 2016. The Falcon 9 first stage also landed on a droneship while the second stage continued on, delivering the spacecraft to a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit. (SpaceX via AP)
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launches the JCSAT-14 communications satellite at Cape Canaveral, Fla, early Friday, May 6, 2016. The Falcon 9 first stage also landed on a droneship while the second stage continued on, delivering the spacecraft to a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit. (SpaceX via AP)

Explore further: SpaceX to launch Japanese satellite early Friday

More information: SpaceX: www.spacex.com/

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betterexists
1.5 / 5 (4) May 06, 2016
(I mean similar to Starshot)
Prior to massive Space X Dragon planned for Mars in 2018, WHY NOT just precede it ASAP by TOSSING SEVERAL Tiny ones at once onto several areas of that Planet also?
They can reclaim them later on & collect what information they have gathered and/or Why they went dead!
If it works, Good. If not, so be it.
FredJose
2.3 / 5 (3) May 06, 2016
So some boytjie from Pretoria is achieving great things! Well done, Space-X.
RichManJoe
5 / 5 (6) May 06, 2016
Congratulations, Space-X . There are a lot of us old space engineers who are in amazement. Time for the younger generation to take us to the next level.
rgw
2 / 5 (6) May 06, 2016
And they say African Americans don't do well in science.(;>)
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
4.5 / 5 (8) May 06, 2016
I saw a realistic estimate over at Ars Technica that implied the 5 s long fuel saving 3 engine hoverslam test landing took the rocket from supersonic to 0 m/s and 0 m altitude at 8 g.

No wonder there were residual fire, "coming in hot" just entered a new dimension! The Musk dimension of "if you don't fail at first you are not really trying".

Amazingly sturdy and precise launcher/lander!
rwcarmichael
5 / 5 (6) May 06, 2016
In the larger picture, ULA is starting deep layoffs because the days of craft-made rocketry and expendable vehicles, and elaborate recovery at sea are over. ULA is currently suing John McCain and Elon Musk for "conspiring to use pricing to put ULA out of business." But ULA is also confiding that it would take more than 20 years to catch up with SpaceX, but in that 20 years, SpaceX would undoubtedly continue to make progress.

The ESA is near panic. The Arienne 6 was too far along to be cancelled, but even with the huge government subsidies they receive,they are in even worse shape than ULA. The Japanese are at the point of massively shrinking their space launch business because they have had so many back-to-back failures. The Russians are just out in the cold with a struggling economy that cannot mount a serious development of reusable rocketry.

It appears that only China, with truly massive subsidies will be able to compete.
KBK
1 / 5 (2) May 07, 2016
It would only take them 20 years as they are tied directly to the "slow down technology advancement" clique of military and corporate black ops, who have taken over the US economy and are keeping technological advances in the black ops area.

ULA cries foul, fumble, and incompetence at every stage, creating decades of promise and non delivery, while all the proper advancements go into and stay in black ops.

To clarify: ULA is an incompetence story for the public to absorb while the real advances go onward and upward in the black ops that their connections are involved in.

This much is obvious.

If one looks closely at the way that Space X is run, the people involved, how they work, how they get things done.. and compare that to what ULA has technologically and historically, in resource, people, and methodology...there is NO OTHER CONCLUSION.

Such Gross incompetence is outright impossible and the viability of spaceX states it explicitly.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (4) May 07, 2016
Congratulations, SpaceX, taking the next step in reusable launch capability. Pushing the envelope.
SamB
2 / 5 (4) May 07, 2016
And they say African Americans don't do well in science.(;>)


They do and it is true.
But they do say that American Africans do very well in science!

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