SpaceX again successfully landed one of its Falcon 9 rockets on a drone ship floating in the sea last night. This is the sixth time that SpaceX has successfully landed a rocket and the fourth time it has done so on a drone ship.
SpaceX, an Elon Musk company, makes notification of the successful landing on Twitter: “Falcon 9 first stage has successfully landed on the Of Course I Still Love You”. The rocket was sent into space to place a JCSAT-16 communications satellite in the geostationary transfer orbit above the equator, 36,000 kilometers above sea level.
That is significantly higher above our planet than, for example, the 400 kilometers of the ISS, which floats in a low orbit around the earth. That’s what made this fifth landing challenging: Reaching that height required a much higher speed, costing one and a half times as much fuel as if the rocket only had to get to 400 kilometers altitude, or low earth orbit. This left less fuel for the landing maneuvers. In addition, when returning to Earth, the rocket had to endure more in terms of friction.
Despite the additional challenges, the mission has thus been successfully completed. The first stage booster successfully landed 9 minutes after launch on SpaceX’s drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. This has traveled with the second stage rocket to an altitude of about 70 kilometers. In the first image of the rocket that can be seen again, it is already standing upright on the drone ship. The landing cannot be captured with the drone ship’s cameras because of the intense vibrations that take place. SpaceX will release other images of the landing at a later date.
This is the fourth time a SpaceX rocket has successfully landed at sea, something the company has attempted a total of nine times. There are also images of the failed landing. About 30 minutes after launch, the second stage rocket successfully placed the JCSAT-16 in geostationary orbit. SpaceX is working towards sending a mission to Mars every two years starting in 2018.
The company has also webcast the launch. The launch itself takes place at 4:50 PM, the first stage rocket detachment at 7:35 PM, its landing at 26:20 PM and the satellite detachment is at 49:15 PM.