Planetary space travel has long been an ambition of Man; and once we managed the initial moon landing—nearly 50 years ago—our species have made leaps and bounds. With Russia, Europe, and the United States leading the charge, astronauts have trained all over the world to live in space in order to research technology and environmental conditions.
But while launching manned missions to space has become more commonplace these days, they are still quite impractical because they are expensive. And the biggest expense associated with these missions is the cost of building new rockets for every launch.
While the shuttle, for example, can get into orbit around the planet and then come back to Earth and land like an airplane, launching the craft into space requires massive rockets which get used up for every mission.
And so, new companies—like Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX—are working to develop reusable rockets. This will not only bring down the cost of exploratory manned missions to space, but it will help to usher in a new of passenger flight through space.
SpaceX has not had an easy go in terms of developing these reusable rockets, but that is to be expected, of course. Anytime you try something new you can usually expect a high failure rate while you adjust and recalculate.
As such, SpaceX has recently used its Falcon 9 rocket to help send a new ocean-monitoring satellite into space. In the previous generation of space exploration, a satellite might be sent into space and the rocket sacrificed. This time, SpaceX is using every opportunity to experiment with the rocket.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 is designed to reenter the earth’s atmosphere and then be remotely piloted to land on a floating barge in the ocean. This is so the team can recollect the rocket to use it again later. At least, that is the theory; so far, SpaceX has only successfully landed one rocket, which occurred in Florida, in December of 2015.
This is the third time SpaceX has tried to land the rocket on a drone ship, floating about 200 miles from the California coast (and the fourth rocket, overall).
Apparently the conditions were rougher than expected but they were able to successfully land the rocket, though with some difficulty. They will now test the booster to see if it can be reused in the future.