We’re one step closer to private space travel after SpaceX successfully landed a rocket on a drone ship on Friday. This is the second successful landing, the first at sea, and a major proof of the SpaceX concept. Since the company can now land vehicles both at sea and on land, they will be able to recover a higher percentage of their launched rockets. That represents a major cost savings and good news for people who hope to take a flight to space that ends with a successful landing (basically everyone). While it would seem harder to land a rocket on a floating drone ship than the land, it could be more cost effective for several reasons. Since the rocket takes a parabolic arc off the launch pad, it has to perform a lot of adjustments to get back to a fixed landing surface. The Falcon 9 would have to slow, turn around, and then retrace its path back to the ground. A drone ship could potentially move itself into position to catch the rocket, which reduces fuel costs and is therefore more desirable. The company plans to land approximately two-thirds of its flights at sea. On a previous attempt, the rocket “landed hard.” SpaceX Vice President of Mission Assurance Hans Koenigsmann said that the next two or three landings would be at sea in a recent press conference.
The Falcon 9 rocket requires $60 million to make but a comparative pittance of $200,000 to fuel. Should the rockets prove consistently and safely landable, that would represent a 30% savings. And while that wouldn’t make it exactly cheap to travel into space, it might make things a bit more democratic. Watch footage of the landing below.