See Space X's Reusable Rocket Successfully Splash Down [VIDEO]
Earlier last month, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) successfully landed a new and reusable version of the Falcon 9 rocket's booster stage. The private space-faring company has just released a video of the reusable rocket in action, showcasing technology that might help usher in a new age of space exploration.
Last July, SpaceX successfully launched one of its Falcon 9 rockets to deliver six ORBCOMM OG2 satellites into orbit. The miniature communication satellites successfully deployed 15 minutes into flight, resulting in another of 11 total Falcon 9 missions so far.
What made this launch unique, however, was that it was launched using a reusable first rocket stage - technology relatively unheard of until SpaceX began playing up the success of their F9R tests in May.
According to the company, the ORBCOMM mission rocket stage reentered Earth's atmosphere and soft-landed in the Atlantic Ocean soon after launch.
"This test confirms that the Falcon 9 booster is able consistently to reenter from space at hypersonic velocity, restart main engines twice, deploy landing legs and touch down at near zero velocity," the company proudly announced.
As reportedly planned, the stage deployed its landing legs and touched down on the surface of the water vertical, only to topple over sideways, simply because the legs are not designed for buoyancy.
"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 refly the rocket with no required refurbishment," the company added on July 22.
At that time, a video of the landing taken from the side of the rocket stage itself was released. However, a clearer video shot from a plane has since been released that truly shows the capabilities of this kind of rocket.
It's the kind of reusable technology that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has spoken about previously, with dreams of a busy futuristic spaceport complete with constantly launching rockets. His company is now in the early stages of breaking ground for such a spaceport to be based in Texas.
Still, you won't likely see another reusable Falcon 9 splash or touch down for some time. The company has reported that one downside to the reusable stage technology is that it takes a considerable amount of propellant to slow decent - fuel that high-velocity and long flight missions cannot afford to hold due to capacity constraints.
The Falcon Heavy, the company reports, may be a more viable alternative in the future. However, it will be some time before that rocket class is ready for launch.