SpaceX finally repeated its Falcon 9 landing, recovering its rocket for the fifth time over the last year after successfully completing a resupply mission to the International Space Station.
It was the first time coming back to land — on land — since the Orbcomm mission in December. The company knew how to put on a show, inviting groupies to observe the landing with a team of hosts for its own private news coverage.
Less than a minute later, the Dragon supply ship broke away from the second stage of the rocket in order to rendezvous with the ISS.
This launch is using the same booster rocket from the April 8 cargo mission to the ISS. The Falcon 9 has pulled off several barge landings and failures over the last few months. One January crash saw the rocket tip over once, touching the ocean liner while another exploded at sea last month. But there have been three successful landings at sea.
“On the reflight of the recovered booster, that’s going to be most likely in fall this year,” Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX’s VP of Flight Reliability, said during a press conference over the weekend. “Of course, we need to have a customer. We’re in talks right now, but we haven’t finalized those talks at this point in time.”
The mission included a new kind of docking port that will allow new crew capsules to dock with the station when the next shift change occurs next year. Before then, a Falcon 9 will deliver a second ring to add to the assembly. The ring delivered this morning was 7.8″ in diameter.
SpaceX is still playing catch up after a few mission delays. The next scheduled Falcon 9 launch is in August and will be for Tokyo-based SKY Perfect JSAT Corp to improve its communications satellite network. After that, a September launch will bring the Amos 6 into orbit for the Israeli government’s own satellite communications network. That mission also may include cargo from Israeli biopharm startup SpacePharma, whose mini lab is designed to do medical and biochemical tests in microgravity.