SpaceX frequently launches Falcon 9 rockets and then attempts to land them on a drone ship in the ocean or on a landing pad somewhere in the United States, but the commercial space company took a different approach after launching one of its rockets on Wednesday.
Image Credit: Elon Musk/Twitter
Rather than commencing the typical upright landing sequence, SpaceX let the spent first stage of Wednesday’s Falcon 9 rocket launch fall back down to Earth and plop right down into the Atlantic Ocean.
Now before you get all excited, we should probably clarify that SpaceX initiated a landing burn to slow the rocket down before it touched the water. On the other hand, it didn’t have a place to land upright, so it toppled over instead.
Astonishingly, the first stage survived the fall, and a photo Tweeted by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Wednesday evening shows the spent rocket floating on its side without any perceptible damage:
Recovery teams will purportedly visit what’s left and tow it back to shore. Then again, it’s unlikely that SpaceX will refurbish this rocket for another flight given the circumstances.
As for why the company didn’t land the right upright as usual, it seems that SpaceX wanted to test a high-powered landing technique without damaging the drone ship. That said, they had the rocket land in the water to prevent unnecessary damage that would hinder future landings.
It should indeed be interesting to see how the first stage looks after recovery teams scoop it up out of the briny ocean waters. Perhaps we’ll even get to hear some details about how the test went.