It’s easy to forget the private space exploration company SpaceX was founded just a little over a decade ago, essentially starting from scratch with its ambitious goal for space exploration. But every little step counts — and the latest one sounds pretty cool.
The company is currently using the Falcon 9 rocket and plans to test a new landing mechanism that will essentially try to bring a rocket back from space and land it on a big ol’ platform floating in the middle of the ocean. So, basically a massive game of dartboard target practice. From space. With a rocket.
As Space reports, the plan calls for the team to land the rocket booster on a floating landing pad that measures approximately 300 feet by 170 feet. If the gamble actually works, it’ll hopefully be the first step toward bringing the rockets back on land and further developing reusable rocket technology. Long-term, the goal is to reuse tech to the point that it makes space exploration more affordable.
This represents the next step in the company’s landing plan, after previously bringing rockets back and landing them in the ocean. They’ve done “soft” landings in the ocean, but the rocket wasn’t recovered. Company founder Elon Musk admits it’ll be “tricky” to pull off, and the first attempt might not be a success, but he thinks it’s a mechanism they can eventually master to reuse the rocket:
“We're going to try to land on [the floating landing platform] on the next flight. If we land on that flight, I think we'll be able to re-fly that booster. There are a lot of launches that will occur over the next year. I think it's quite likely that one of those flights, we'll be able to land and re-fly, so I think we're quite close."
The next SpaceX mission is set for December, and Musk teased that could be the first test for the floating landing site. We’re really curious to see how this one turns out.