A hit, a very palpable hit! Private spaceflight firm SpaceX made a fresh attempt to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a boat today, after launching its sixth cargo mission to the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The rocket did manage to hit the boat, but not softly, early reports say.
Most rockets are only good for one flight, and fall into the sea once their fuel is spent. SpaceX wants to change that by adding landing legs to is rockets, allowing them to be reused. Musk has said that a rocket that can return to Earth and safely touch down could lower the cost of spacecraft by a factor of 100.
The Falcon 9 launched at 4:10 pm Eastern time. The rocket left Earth’s atmosphere, then flipped nearly upside-down before igniting booster rockets to steer itself back toward the ground. It then used side fins and its engines to guide itself toward a drone-operated barge in the Atlantic ocean. It hit the barge, but with too much speed.
Today’s launch was the third attempt to test the system. The first, back in January, failed with fireworks – the rocket hit the barge too fast and at the wrong angle, destroying its landing legs and exploding. The second, in February, was scrubbed due to rough seas.
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