This is very cool (no matter what the naysayers say). SpaceX just released a video (shown below) from their latest Falcon 9 launch of ORBCOMM satellites. Except, they aren’t focusing on the rocket’s launch, but its landing.
That’s right, as they’ve said they would do all along, SpaceX keeps testing their rockets’ abilities for landing. The video they released shows the various burns the rocket does to keep things under control as it comes back down. The camera, unfortunately, ices over some during this time. But near the end, right before the rocket touches down on the water, you can see the Falcon 9’s legs, which also serve as the rocket’s roll control mechanism, extend.
Then it touches down on the ocean, where it proceeds to fall over (because, water). According to Phys.org, SpaceX is obviously very excited about this test because they stopped and started the rocket engine twice, deployed the rocket’s landing legs, and most importantly, managed to slow the rocket’s landing velocity to basically zero (important if you don’t want to wreck the rocket while landing). In other words, everything about this controlled re-entry and landing went exactly how SpaceX wanted it to.
More interesting is that SpaceX is now talking openly about test landing the Falcon 9 rocket on land. These tests would occur after another ORBCOMM satellite launch and later after a Turkmen satellite launch. SpaceX does not expect those launches to happen any earlier than November 2014. They are also not listed on their most current launch manifest (but that might change). The other question, aside from exactly when, is where on earth are they going to land it? I could see all sorts of hassle and reticence from Air Force and NASA authorities to land the rocket back on their launch pads, even if SpaceX has taken custody of them. And the possibility of flying a rocket over populated areas probably will give them the shakes, too.
Thank you, SpaceX, for these interesting times…