MIAMI: After four failed bids SpaceX finally stuck the landing on Friday, powering the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket onto an ocean platform where it touched down upright after launching cargo to space.
Images of the tall, narrow rocket gliding down serenely onto a platform that SpaceX calls a droneship sparked applause and screams of joy at SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California.
“The first stage of the Falcon 9 just landed on our Of Course I Still Love You droneship,” SpaceX wrote on Twitter, after launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 4:43pm.
Nasa spokesman George Diller confirmed that the rocket had successfully landed, just minutes after the Falcon 9 propelled the unmanned Dragon cargo craft to orbit, carrying supplies for astronauts at the International Space Station.
SpaceX has once before managed to set the rocket down on land, but ocean attempts had failed, with the rocket coming close each time but either crashing or tipping over.
Speaking to reporters afterward, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that being able to return costly rocket parts for repeated use, instead of jettisoning them into the ocean after each launch, will make spaceflight less expensive and less harmful to the environment.
“It is just as fundamental in rocketry as it is in other forms of transport such as cars or planes or bicycles or anything,” said Musk, who also runs Tesla Motors.
Musk said it costs around $300,000 to fuel a rocket, but $60 million to build one.