SpaceX Rocket Survives a Harsh Landing in the Atlantic Ocean
SpaceX, for all their accomplishments, also has a long history of accidentally blowing up their rockets in experimental test launches.
So it's actually rather impressive that the one time Elon Musk expected one of his Falcon 9 rockets to blow up, it held together. SpaceX recently launched a Falcon 9 with an attached GovSat-1 communications satellite, with the goal of sending the satellite into orbit (and redeeming their public image after losing the government ZUMA satellite so recently).
But there wasn't a safe landing pad in place for the rocket on its trip down, an unusual choice when SpaceX takes so much pride in their reusable rockets. That's because it wasn't supposed to land safely — SpaceX was testing out water landings, likely to see whether a rocket that missed a landing on a nearby droneship could avoid damaging said droneship on its often explosive contact with the ocean.
The rocket didn't just land safely in the Atlantic Ocean, it landed completely intact, bobbing in the water as everyone at SpaceX realized they could recover it. See it for yourself:
This rocket was meant to test very high retrothrust landing in water so it didn’t hurt the droneship, but amazingly it has survived. We will try to tow it back to shore. pic.twitter.com/hipmgdnq16— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 31, 2018
Musk said the following:
As for why SpaceX was so willing to destroy this rocket in the ocean (as unsuccessful as that was), they haven't given a full reason yet. The Falcon 9 rocket was an older model, and when the launch of their new and improved Falcon Heavy rocket is so close, disposing of a smaller, clunkier model for research purposes would make sense.
Clearly, being an obsolete rocket doesn't at SpaceX doesn't mean it's a pushover. And in his eagerness to destroy it, it's now going to cost more than Musk expected to tow the healthy rocket back to land.