The first stage of an unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 landed sedately on a floating barge off of the coast of Florida 10 minutes after the rocket’s launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 1:21 a.m. EDT May 6.
“Woohoo!!” Musk tweeted in reaction to the landing. “May need to increase size of rocket storage hangar.”
Shortly afterwards, the Falcon 9 placed its commercial cargo — a Japanese communications satellite – into the designated near-Earth orbit.
The JCSAT-14 satellite is owned by Japanese sat-operator SKY Perfect JSAT, Asia’s largest satellite operator 40 and was built by Space Systems Loral. The satellite will deliver TV programming, broadband connections and phone service in Japan and some surrounding territories.
The landing of the Falcon 9 first stage follows by less than a month a similarly successful SpaceX barge touchdown. Officials had signaled some pessimism about the prospects for a successful landing in the May 5 mission, citing greater launch velocities and orbital distance.
The pessimism proved unwarranted.
SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, Calif., long has aimed to make its rockets dependably reusable via landings on either land or sea, depending on needs and circumstances.
The JCSAT-14 launch originally was scheduled for May 5 but was delayed one day due to weather conditions at the launch site.