SpaceX successfully launched a satellite on the evening of Friday May 27 from Cape Canaveral, and then eight minutes later brought the 15-storey first-stage booster portion of the rocket safely back to its floating ‘Of Course I still Love You’ barge.
Indeed, the video of the landing (from an on-board camera) is a quite spectacular demonstration of the speed and huge risks involved. But the landing was flawless.
“Falcon-9 has landed” said the launch commentator. SpaceX’s founder, billionaire Elon Musk said in a Twitter feed after the launch that the craft’s landing speed “speed was close to design max & used up contingency crush core, hence back & forth motion. Prob ok, but some risk of tipping. Crush core is aluminum honeycomb for energy absorption in the telescoping actuator. Easy to replace (if Falcon makes it back to port).”
The successful landing, the third in just under two months, is a major coup for Musk and his engineering team. It strongly suggests that SpaceX has the design and aeronautics just about right. The rocket company’s president Gwynne Shotwell has previously stated that SpaceX would be happy with a 60 per cent success rate for landings, and thus reusing many of the first stages for future flights. They may have to increase those percentages.
The launch was also a success for Thaicom-8 which is now on its way into orbit.
SpaceX’s first wholly successful booster landing occurred in December — on land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The California-based company followed up with a successful touchdown on its floating platform in the Atlantic in early April, then again May 6. All three of those recovered boosters are now side by side, horizontally, in a SpaceX hangar. The second recovered booster will be tested and should fly on another mission later this year.