Science

Space X Rocket Makes Perfect Soft Touchdown on Ship at Sea

By Andrew Collins , May 28, 2016 05:18 AM EDT

Third time's the charm. Space X successfully landed one of its rockets Friday, the company's third successful attempt in a span of three months. The feat promises a future of cost-efficient spaceflight, either for commercial or exploratory purposes.

The unmanned Falcon 9 landed on the deck of a drone ship off the coast of Florida. The rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force station, sending a Thai communications satellite into orbit.

A CNN report noted most rockets discard the first-stage boosters after deploying satellites into space and for the past 58 years this was the only protocol. Some boosters are left adrift in space, while others burn up upon re-entry to the earth's atmosphere.

Landing used rockets is the goal of launches, though. Reusable rockets significantly cuts costs, especially for commercial enterprises like Space X, a company founded by Elon Musk.

The company failed in three initial attempts before landing one of its Falcon 9 rockets in-shore last December. The company's first successful sea landing on April 8 was repeated a few weeks ago after the rocket launched a satellite for a Japanese telecom company.

This Friday's launch was originally scheduled for Thursday, but SpaceX postponed to resolve a potential problem with a mechanism in the rocket's upper-stage engine. Space.com described the landing as a soft touchdown on a ship at sea. The maritime accomplishment is the third time in history. With SpaceX's third successful maneuver, the company's prospects in commercial space missions look promising.

Musk posted updates on Twitter throughout the mission, commenting on the actual landing maneuver: "Rocket landing speed was close to design max & used up contingency crush core, hence back & forth motion. Prob ok, but some risk of tipping."

The experimental landings are in line with SpaceX's goal of making fully reusable rockets the norm. The technology can dramatically reduce the cost of spaceflight and can make prospects of a Mars colony feasible.

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