It may have taken a while, but SpaceX was finally able to land a part of its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship located in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday.
The Falcon 9's first stage booster successfully executed a vertical landing on a floating platform eight minutes and 35 seconds after it was launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The rest of the spacecraft made its way toward the International Space Station (ISS) to deliver food, equipment and other supplies to its crew.
Friday's event marks the first time SpaceX was able to land a first stage booster at sea, after failing its first five tries. The spacecraft has made successful touchdowns on land before.
At the press conference following the Falcon 9's launch, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said that what was different about their latest attempt was that the rocket simply touched down on the barge instead creating a hole in the platform or tipping over like it happened in a previous landing.
He explained that they now plan to stabilize the Falcon 9 rocket first by welding it down to the platform on the barge it landed on and have the vessel transported to a port by Sunday. SpaceX engineers will then carry out several tests on the spacecraft's engines to check their condition.
The Falcon 9's engines will be fired 10 times in a row during these tests, and if they prove to be in good working condition, they will be used again on another orbital mission that is scheduled for May or June.
SpaceX is working on reducing the turnaround time for its spacecraft to just a couple weeks.
Musk said that the company has not decided yet on the type of launch they will carry out in the next few months, or whether it will be for paying customers.
"We think it'll be a paying customer, but we have to have discussions on it," Musk said.
He added that their Falcon 9 rockets could also be used for 10 to 20 additional space missions. They can also extend the life span of the rockets to 100 launches by conducting minor refurbishment on them.