An unmanned Falcon 9 rocket built by a private aerospace company SpaceX successfully landed on an ocean platform docked off the coast of Florida.
The rocket carried with it a full load of supplies including a Dragon Spacecraft for the International Space Station (ISS).
After sending the Dragon capsule on its way, the first-stage booster peeled away. Instead of dropping into the Atlantic like leftover junk, the 15-story booster steered to an upright touchdown on the barge, named “Of Course I Still Love You.”
Video from a company aircraft showed the 156-foot-tall booster descending vertically on the power of a single rocket engine and nailing the landing just a few feet from the center of the barge’s deck, stable on its wide landing legs, reports CBS News.
‘Of Course I Still Love You,’ we have a Falcon 9 on board,
a SpaceX engineer triumphantly radioed about eight minutes and 35 seconds after launch.
I think this was a really good milestone for the future of spaceflight, I think it’s another step toward the stars,
SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk told reporters at the Florida launch site.
The landing also won accolades from the highest office in the land. President Barack Obama hailing the company’s technological feat tweeted:
Congrats SpaceX on landing a rocket at sea
It’s because of innovators like you & NASA that America continues to lead in space exploration.
This was the fifth attempt by the company to land the first stage booster rocket. The team had touched down on land before, but this was the first successful touchdown on the barge. Several ocean landing attempts over the past year ended in explosions on the barge.
The company said it can save tens of millions of dollars per flight with this innovative landing by recycling the boosters. Musk said he’s looking forward to the day when booster landings become boring.