Nearly one month after SpaceX successfully launched and returned its Falcon 9 rocket to Earth, Elon Musk and his team are ready to see if they can do it again, trying this time to return the rocket to a drone ship floating in the ocean.
SpaceX landed its Falcon 9 rocket upright at Cape Canaveral last month after the private space company launched a payload of satellites into orbit. With a launch date set for this Sunday, SpaceX will launch the Jason-3 into orbit for NASA. The satellite that will measure the height of ocean surfaces from space.
While the Cape Canaveral landing was a success, SpaceX will try for the third time to land its Falcon 9 on a barge floating in the open ocean. Previous attempts had come close to landing on the barge but were destroyed when they narrowly missed the mark and suffered crash landings.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk said drone ship landings are needed for "high velocity missions," which would allow payloads, such as satellites, to reach a higher orbit.
Aiming to launch this weekend and (hopefully) land on our droneship. Ship landings needed for high velocity missions https://t.co/n6j0mExAqM— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 12, 2016
Musk has previously said he believes reusing rockets -- which cost as much as a commercial airplane -- could reduce the cost of access to space by a factor of one hundred.
While conventional rockets burn up on re-entry, SpaceX designed the Falcon 9 to be able to withstand the heat and land vertically so the rocket can be used again on a future launch. The Falcon 9 SpaceX returned to Earth last month has been inspected, and Musk said is free of damage and capable of firing again.
SpaceX's attempt this month will come nearly one year to the day the company made its first landing attempt on a drone ship. Dramatic video shows just how close the rocket came to landing on the barge.