SpaceX has successfully completed one of its trickiest and unlikeliest rocket landings yet.
Elon Musk’s private space company has been an unqualified success in most areas, but it’s struggled to stick the landings of its reusable rockets.
SpaceX just secured only its third ever successful rocket landing, and only the second at sea. Even then, the success appears to have come as a big surprise.
You see, the company had expected its latest landing attempt to fail. Placing a Japanese communications satellite into orbit 22,300 miles above the Earth meant that the Falcon 9 rocket had to come in very hot indeed, dropping the odds of a successful landing significantly.
Yet land successfully it did, on an automated barge, in the middle of the night.
Being able to land and thus reuse these rockets is essential to cracking affordable space travel, which is one of SpaceX’s key goals. Landing at sea is particularly demanding, for obvious reasons, but is essential for missions that are particularly fuel-intensive.
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By successfully landing its rockets in this way, SpaceX saves tens of millions of dollars, and shortens the time in between launches. The first Falcon 9 recovery happened around a month ago, and SpaceX intends to relaunch it in the summer.
By that time, the company could be launching several times per month.