SpaceX successfully launched a communications satellite over the weekend, and then tried – as before – to land on an ocean barge. The attempt, like the past 4 tries, was unsuccessful, making it Robot Barge “Of Course I Still Love You” 5, Falcon 9 rocket 0. Ocean landings are tricky, but necessary for the future of more efficient space flight. More from Wired:
Despite the failed landing, today’s launch was a success—because the real mission was getting a communications satellite, SES-9, into geostationary orbit. Recent Falcon 9 launches have only targeted low Earth orbit, like where the International Space Station is. But today’s launch sent the satellite into a higher ellipse, locked over a single spot on Earth. Reaching a target altitude of 40,6000 km required greater speeds—8,000 or 9,000 kilometers per hour, compared to previous speeds of 5,000 or 6,000 kph.
Founded in 2002 by entrepreneur Elon Musk of Paypal and Tesla Cars fame, SpaceX is the first and only privately owned company to return a spacecraft from low Earth orbit. It was also the first company, in 2012, to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station, exchange loads, and return safely to earth. Since then, SpaceX has run several resupply missions to the ISS on behalf of NASA.