Private space transport company SpaceX announced Tuesday a successful test of the first stage of its reusable Falcon 9 rocket, and released a video of the rocket making a “soft landing.”
The rocket successfully launched six Orbcomm satellites into orbit last week, and the video shot from a camera attached to the Falcon 9’s first stage shows it firing its engines twice before deploying a set of landing legs designed to touch down vertically on land.
Falcon 9’s first test took place in April, but the video of its landing was corrupted and largely unusable. Both landings took place over the ocean for testing purposes, resulting in last week’s rocket being rendered unusable when water breached the rocket’s hull. Despite the damage, SpaceX said the test was a success.
“This test confirms that the Falcon 9 booster is able consistently to re-enter from space at hypersonic velocity, restart main engines twice, deploy landing legs and touch down at near zero velocity,” the company reported on its website.
SpaceX now has two successful soft landings under its belt — significant progress toward the project’s ultimate goal of reusing rockets, which could reduce the cost of spaceflight by a factor of 100, or tens of millions of dollars, according to CEO Elon Musk.
“After landing, the vehicle tipped sideways as planned to its final water safing state in a nearly horizontal position,” a SpaceX statement reads. “The water impact caused loss of hull integrity, but we received all the necessary data to achieve a successful landing on a future flight.”
“At this point, we are highly confident of being able to land successfully on a floating launch pad or back at the launch site and re-fly the rocket with no required refurbishment.”
The technology could be crucial in making future missions to Mars and other deep-space locations economically feasible.
SpaceX has another ocean splashdown planned for September, and two more afterward will attempt first stage touchdowns on land.