It must be so satisfying for the people involved in an outlandish gamechanging project to see something to fruition from just models and computer simulations. The story of SpaceX is one such thing. If you don’t already know, SpaceX is a private company based out of the US which designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. It was founded by Elon Musk, yes the Elon Musk of Paypal and Tesla Motors.
Last year they released this.
As you can see from the video, each stage of the rocket is supposed to not only come back to Earth, but come back in style. All stages of the spacecraft are designed to land on their feet, for re-usability. At the outset it looks completely un-doable and fit only for simulation.
SpaceX actually built the first stage, and in October 2013 they tested it. This was filmed via a hexacopter over the launch site.
Yesterday they made their first launch using this system. It was a cargo resupply mission called the SpaceX CRS 3. Because it is the first time SpaceX is launching this system, the landing was planned not over land as the simulations and the tests but over the Atlantic Ocean. And as of a few hours ago, Elon Musk has confirmed a successful landing.
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Data upload from tracking plane shows landing in Atlantic was good! Several boats enroute through heavy seas.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 19, 2014