SpaceX to attempt first-ever controlled rocket landing at sea

JANUARY 6, 2015

Entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX company will try a daring soft-landing of part of its Falcon rocket when it launches a cargo mission to the space station. Currently, all segments of a rocket are discarded after use and are destroyed as they fall back to Earth.

SpaceX had scheduled the launch for Tuesday but it has since been postponed to Friday.

SpaceX is hoping to achieve a controlled return of the first stage of its Falcon 9 vehicle for future re-use – which would effectively cut expenses associated with launches.

The company will try to target the booster at a sea barge positioned in the Atlantic, off the coast of Florida.

Cautious

SpaceX itself is playing down expectations, rating the chances of success at no more than 50-50.

"I'm pretty sure this will be very exciting, but, as I said, it's an experiment," said Hans Koenigsmann, Vice President for Mission Assurance at SpaceX.

"There's a certain likelihood that this will not work out all right, that something will go wrong. It's the first time we have tried this - nobody has ever tried it as far as we know."

The primary purpose of the flight is to send the Dragon cargo ship on a path to rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS) - however, it is the controlled return that is expected to get the most attention.

Photo caption: This SpaceX demonstrator shows what a returning stage with legs looks like. Image SpaceX.