SpaceX has released photos of the Falcon 9 rocket floating back to port after last week’s Thaicom 8 mission. The company successfully launched a satellite into orbit for the Thai satellite operator and landed the first stage Falcon 9 booster aboard the Of Course I Still Love You droneship floating at sea. The mission marks the fourth time SpaceX has safely returned a Falcon 9 rocket to Earth, the third time the company has stuck the landing at aboard the floating droneship.
The Falcon 9 that returned on the barge did experience a slight malfunction on the landing, causing the rocket to lean precariously, but crews were able to grab hold of it before it tipped and exploded. The tilt was the result of the rocket using up its crush core on the landing. The rocket had taken the descent at slightly higher speeds than previous missions, and the device in place for cushioning the landing sustained some damage that will need replacement before the rocket can perform future missions.
Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, confirmed that the crush core is “easy to replace” on Twitter shortly after the rocket landing.
Other than the slight problem on the landing, the mission altogether went off according to plan, launching on a beautiful day and encountering minimal turbulence along the way.
The rocket launch and release of the satellite into orbit proved a success for SpaceX.
Photos from the landing itself show the rocket coming in slightly tilted and a little hot.
Once the rocket did touch down, the crew managed to secure the landing by welding steel shoes around its four legs.
Musk has long expressed interest in re-launching one of the landed boosters to prove that his dream of reusable rockets has been achieved. He may be willing to use this rocket, though, as the repairs would cast doubt on whether SpaceX has truly achieved the milestone.
Also last night, SpaceX released this memorable Vine video of the landing. This never gets old: