SpaceX first accomplished the remarkable feat of landing its 70-foot-tall Falcon 9 booster and first stage in December 2015. Since then, it has nailed the landing procedure, whether it takes place on the ground or on a barge parked in the ocean.
The landings allow SpaceX reuse the boosters for multiple orbital missions, allowing for a faster launch cycle and significantly reducing flight costs.
Watching one of SpaceX’s boosters land is a sight to behold, its engines roaring back to life to stabilize itself and its landing legs unfolding for a perfect, upright landing.
On Thursday, SpaceX shared some wonderful images (below) of its latest landing after a mission to deploy 40 broadband satellites for UK-based OneWeb. The Falcon 9 first stage separated at an altitude of approximately 50 miles, 150 seconds after launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. And then, 7 minutes and 50 seconds after the start, the reinforcement made a perfect touchdown on Kennedy.
Watch the video as the camera tracks the booster as it approaches the landing site.
This particular booster has already flown multiple missions, namely CRS-24, Eutelsat HOTBIRD 13F, and a Starlink flight. SpaceX will overhaul it, restore it, and get it ready for another flight.
Like any new space technology, it took SpaceX engineers years to perfect the Falcon 9 landing, and many early efforts ended in failure when the booster fell too hard or collapsed seconds after landing. But each failure gave the team new data to work with, allowing them to refine the process.
Attention is now shifting to SpaceX’s next-generation Super Heavy rocket, comprising the first-stage Super Heavy booster and second-stage Starship spacecraft. The rocket is set for its first orbital test flight in the coming months and will become the most powerful spacecraft ever flown when it takes to the skies. While the Falcon 9 is geared toward low Earth orbital missions, the mighty Super Heavy will power spacecraft to the moon and possibly beyond.
The first orbital test flight will not attempt to land the Super Heavy first stage, though SpaceX said it plans to do so eventually.