For the first time ever, a rocket has been successfully launched into space and then returned and landed on a drone ship floating in the ocean. It sounds like something out of science fiction, but it’s real. Just yesterday the Falcon 9 rocket launched into space to resupply the international space station with 7,000 pounds of supplies and the BEAM an expandable habitat providing 565 cubic feet of space for the astronauts. It has now safely returned and landed on a floating drone ship, making it one of only two companies that can actually land a rocket (the other is much smaller) and the only one to land on a floating platform.
The ability to land and reuse rockets will produce less waste and save SpaceX a ton of money and resources. This will allow them to run missions more frequently, only furthering our use and knowledge of space.
So why does SpaceX want to land on water anyway? They can successfully do it on land. Why make it harder and land on a floating platform. Well, it has to do with efficiency. The Falcon 9 doesn’t fly straight up into space. It flies on a arc away from it’s takeoff point. When the cargo detaches and it heads back down to earth, rather than use fuel to arc back around to the launch site, it can just fall on a natural arc to the sea where a drone ship will be waiting to maneuver and catch it.
Here’s a diagram from SpaceX illustrating it all.
So SpaceX has just made history! It’s amazing to see such a huge rocket floating like it weighs nothing. Truly incredible and like something out of the future, but it’s now.