SpaceX is always shooting for the stars but now it’s heading for back to the sea. The spaceflight company will launch its Falcon 9 rocket again January 17 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, but instead of landing the first-stage rocket on a ground-based platform — like it did on December 21 — it’s hoping to bring it down on a barge in the middle of the ocean.
At least, that’s the plan according space journalist Charles A. Lurio of The Lurio Report:
The ambitious plan comes less than a month after SpaceX made history by returning a first-stage rocket that had been sent to space to the ground safely. Just recently that very same Falcon 9 rocket was declared safe for relaunch, though Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, said the company will be using a new rocket, as the original belongs in a museum.
While the eyes of the media will be on Elon Musk’s rocket returning to Earth, scientists around the country will be watching to see its payload delivered safely to space. The rocket is planned to ferry NASA’s long-awaited Jason-3 satellite, which will be used to observe global sea surface height, in to orbit. In a Reddit AMA discussing the launch, representatives of NASA extolled the satellite’s mission for collecting “critical information forecasters need to predict devastating hurricanes, severe weather, and surface wave heights that can affect shipping and offshore operations.”
But the appeal of the landing on a barge is not just about making history for SpaceX, it’s also personal. Even before the recent successful return of a rocket in December, the company tried to land a rocket on a barge last April, though the effort failed at the last moment in a fiery heap of ship and sea.
The Falcon 9 rocket will launch from California, drop its satellite in space and then try to land on a barge just off the coast of Florida. It’s a pretty daring attempt to do what has never been done before, and it seems like they’re pretty fired up about it.