Hey all you failures: Pay attention. SpaceX just launched a rocket into space, then landed a substantial part of it back on Earth for the second time. And the only reason they were able to do it was because they weren’t afraid to fail. Probably some engineering skill, too. And money.
Tonight’s launch was the commercial spaceflight company’s ninth mission to the International Space Station. Its payload was a Dragon capsule loaded with two and a half tons of gear, most impressive of which is the International Docking Adaptor—a crucial modification that will give the next generation of space capsules access to the station.
The Dragon, which should arrive at the ISS in the next two days, also has a handheld DNA sequencer, so the astronauts on board can finally figure out what’s inside all those aliens they’ve been capturing for the past decade. Just kidding, it’s for tissue from mice, and other little organisms with Earthly origins. Besides the tech and the science, the capsule is loaded with creature comforts like like food, water, and oxygen. Astronauts, what a bunch of prima donnas.
Getting that payload into orbit is priority one, but the main attraction was the landing. Not only is it a very cool engineering feat, but these landings save the company about $60 million worth of non-exploded rocket every time. So far, the company has landed four times before—once on the ground, three times on a drone barge in the middle of the ocean. Once SpaceX starts relaunching these things, they will be at a huge advantage over commercial spaceflight competitors like Blue Origin, United Launch Alliance, and Sierra Nevada.
Tonight’s launch is notable for one other reason: It’s the company’s seventh so far of the year. Which puts it one up on the previous two years (2014 and 2015 each had six launches). But with less than six months to go, SpaceX will face some asymmetrical deadlines if it wants to reach its goal of 18 launches for the year. That’s some tight scheduling—unless you’re a company that’s not afraid to fail.
Rewatch all of the magic here, with the landing starting around 35 minutes in:
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