SpaceX has released a video of a Falcon 9 rocket stage's first 'soft' landing in the Atlantic Ocean. Instead of splashing down like a traditional rocket, the stage used thrusters and 25-foot 'legs' to gently touch down in the ocean, the company reported.
On April 25, SpaceX chief executive officer Elon Musk reported that the first stage of the company's Falcon 9 rocket, which delivered the Dragon capsule to the International Space Station, had successfully made a controlled landing into the Atlantic Ocean using its thrusters.
Now the private spaceflight company has released footage of the "soft landing." The video looks grainy, but a snapshot tweeted by Musk shows a "[p]artly cleaned up frame from rocket landing."
Confirming a soft landing tracked using telemetry, Musk had earlier said, "[t]he data is very clear. It shows a soft landing, it shows deployment of all the legs."
The landing spot was on the Atlantic Ocean and weather conditions made recovery difficult. "We kind of got unlucky in that we essentially landed the stage in the middle of a big storm. Hopefully, this time we will not have to do that. We'll also be landing in the water much closer to land than the last time," Musk told Spaceflight Now.
Two days later, when boats arrived at the site, what remained of Falcon 9 were "some bits and pieces, including part of one of four legs that extend from the booster's body for landing, as well as a large carbon-fiber structure that joins the first and second stages of the company's Falcon 9 rocket," reported the Monitor's Pete Spotts.
Aimed at reducing the cost of space missions, the Falcon 9 rocket, with its four 25-foot legs, is designed to be reusable. SpaceX had estimated chances of recovering the reusable part between 30 and 40 percent.
The ultimate goal is for the rocket's stages to touch down right next to the launch pad.
“From the ocean, it would probably take a couple of months to refurbish the stage for flight,” Musk told Forbes. “But on land, in principle, we could refly it on the same day.”