Back in May, SpaceX sent the partially reusable Falcon 9 into space, successfully setting a commercial communications satellite into orbit and then landing the rocket’s stage one engine on a drone ship in the Atlantic. It was the first time anyone had ever landed a first stage from a geostationary transfer orbit (some 22,300 miles above sea level) mission. This time, they were forced to climb to a higher apogee than had ever been attempted before, as Gizmodo reports.
“Given this mission’s GTO destination, the first-stage will be subject to extreme velocities and re-entry heating, making a successful landing challenging,” SpaceX said in a statement prior to the mission.
The company’s disclaimer proved to be unnecessary, though. At 1:26 am EDT, the Falcon 9 launched from Cape Canaveral and, about nine minutes later, its first stage landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship in the Atlantic Ocean. The stage two engine carried on, carrying with it a Japanese communications satellite called the JCSAT-16. Nearer to the cosmos, the engine shoved its payload gently into orbit, where it was set to come online soon thereafter.
Want to watch the whole launch and landing, complete with mathematics, graphics, and hip SpaceX people explaining the gravity of the event? Then check out the video above. With each successful mission with these reusable engines, Musk and Co. prove that space travel can be more cost effective. They also inch ever closer to a mission to Mars. When do you think SpaceX will ultimately launch their first human-led mission to Mars? Let us know in the comments.
Image: Space X