SpaceX Successfully Lands Rocket on Boat

Falcon 9 CRS-8 launch

Landing the first stage is a major success for SpaceX's reusable rocket program, which plans to cut the cost of the rocket to $40 million per launch from $60 million now.

The Falcon 9 craft turned around and headed toward a so-called drone ship - named Of Course I Still Love You - in the Atlantic Ocean, neatly accomplishing a vertical landing.

SpaceX has launched space station supplies for NASA this afternoon, its first shipment since a launch accident here last June. The company landed a Falcon 9 for the first time in December, but the vehicle touched down on land instead of a drone ship at sea.

Reusable rockets could revolutionize spaceflight by making costly launches more affordable, especially for public space agencies like NASA.

The rocket carried a Dragon cargo spacecraft stuffed with almost 7,000 pounds of supplies for the station as well as an expandable habitat that will allow for astronauts to move around.

It was built by Nevada company Bigelow Aerospace and is meant to pave the way towards inflatable habitats for long space trips, including to Mars.

Four previous at-sea landing bids had failed.

"Here's the engine, it's slowing down, legs are deployed", said Kate Tice, a process improvement engineer at SpaceX and one of the webcast's two primary hosts. "With that we need a place to live, we need a place for logistics" Jason Crusan, director of NASA's Advanced Explorations Systems Division said at a news conference Thursday.

Bigelow Aerospace is providing the futuristic pop-up pod, which swells to the size of a small bedroom.

Space station astronauts are getting their first inflatable room.

But, in founding SpaceX, Musk envisioned launching dozens of rockets a year, a vision that makes reusability economical in theory.

Successfully sticking the landing of part of SpaceX's $60-$65 million rocket has just potentially saved the company millions of dollars, especially when it gears up for another launch. The Dragon, a free-flying spacecraft created to deliver cargo and eventually humans into orbit, was destroyed in the explosion as well. Its two-year maiden voyage will be a critical test of that claim.

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