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Autonomous spaceport drone ship.

Watch how tantalizingly close SpaceX’s rocket came to landing on a floating platform in the ocean

Tim Fernholz
By Tim Fernholz

Senior reporter

From our Obsession

Space Business

The private sector is heading out of the atmosphere.

We waited with bated breath yesterday to see if SpaceX could land the first stage of its rocket—normally discarded into the ocean—on a floating platform, so that it could be reused. The rocket didn’t quite make it, but here is the official video, as viewed from the SpaceX chase plane:

It looks like a closer landing than SpaceX’s last attempt in January. SpaceX has been developing reusable rockets to reduce the cost of launch by tens of millions of dollars. Building the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket costs about $54 million, but the fuel only costs $200,000, so reusability would completely change the cost equation.

If SpaceX can figure out how to consistently save its rockets for reuse, it will become the instant leader in launch services for traditional satellites—one reason that ULA, SpaceX’s big competitor, has designed its new Vulcan rocket to be reusable as well.

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