Amazing Videos Show SpaceX's Epic Ocean Rocket Landing

SpaceX's Falcon 9 Rocket Coming Down on Drone Ship
The first stage of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket comes in for a successful landing on a robotic drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean on April 8, 2016. (Image credit: SpaceX)

Two new videos let you relive SpaceX's incredible rocket landing at sea, giving two different perspectives of the historic event — including a stunning rocket's-eye view.

On Friday (April 8), SpaceX brought the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket down for a soft landing on a robotic "drone ship" in the Atlantic Ocean during the successful launch of the company's Dragon cargo capsule toward the International Space Station. SpaceX soon released two videos, which were captured by cameras aboard the booster stage and a monitoring "chase plane," respectively. We combined the two short clips into one awesome video of the SpaceX rocket landing here.

Nobody had ever landed a rocket on a ship at sea prior to Friday's milestone flight. SpaceX had tried such drone-ship touchdowns four times in the past and missed narrowly; on every occasion, the Falcon 9 stage managed to hit its target but fell over on the ship's deck and exploded.

SpaceX has also landed a Falcon 9 first stage on terra firma, pulling off the milestone this past December during a satellite launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida (which was also the site of Friday's Dragon liftoff).

These rocket landings are part of SpaceX's effort to develop fully and rapidly reusable rockets, which company CEO and founder Elon Musk says could revolutionize spaceflight by dramatically reducing its cost.

Missions that launch payloads toward geostationary orbit and beyond Earth will not be able to carry enough fuel to make it back to their launch sites, Musk said during a post-launch briefing Friday; this explains why SpaceX is gaining expertise with the drone-ship landings. (The company has two such uncrewed ships, which are called "Just Read the Instructions" and "Of Course I Still Love You." Friday's landing occurred on the latter vessel.)

The Falcon 9 stage that touched down Friday should make it back to shore by Sunday (April 10). SpaceX plans to relight its engine 10 times in quick succession during tests at Cape Canaveral. If all goes well, the company aims to refly the booster by June, Musk said.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.