SpaceX has successfully landed a reusable rocket on a robotically controlled barge in the middle of the ocean for the first time.
The landing was heralded as yet another breakthrough milestone for SpaceX.
This is the fifth time SpaceX has attempted such a landing. The rocket has not been inspected but appeared to land upright in relatively calm waters — a stark difference from previous attempts that have resulted in fiery crash landings.
“The rocket landed instead of putting a hole in the ship or tipping over,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a news conference after the successful landing, later adding: “It’s another step toward the stars.”
After 2 and a half minutes after launch, the main part of the rocket separated, turned around and headed toward a landing platform floating in the Atlantic about 185 miles of Cape Canaveral.
As it approached the platform, the booster was tilted into the wind but was able to right itself just before touching down.
“It’s quite a tiny target. It’s like trying to land on a postage stamp there,” Musk said. “It’s like a carrier landing versus a land landing.”
At SpaceX’s headquarters, just outside of Los Angeles, employees broke out in raucous applause after the successful landing.
On board the rocket’s cargo ship, dubbed Dragon was about 7,000 pounds of food, supplies and science experiments, including a prototype inflatable habitat, bound for the the space station.