SpaceX successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a ship at sea during mission to launch a Japanese satellite into orbit early Friday morning.
The landing was made during the launch of the JCSAT-14 commercial communications satellite for SpaceX customer SKY Perfect JSAT Corp. of Japan, which took place at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 1:21 a.m. EDT Friday.
SpaceX pulled off an ocean landing last month, during the launch of the company's robotic Dragon cargo capsule to the International Space Station.
Company representatives weren't optimistic that Friday's touchdown try — on a robotic ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean called "Of Course I Still Love You" — would work; the launch sent JCSAT-14 to a more distant geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), so the Falcon 9 was traveling much faster when it returned to Earth.
"Given this mission's GTO destination, the first stage will be subject to extreme velocities and re-entry heating, making a successful landing unlikely," SpaceX representatives wrote in a mission description.
Such landing attempts are part of SpaceX's effort to develop fully and rapidly reusable rockets — a key priority for the company and its billionaire CEO, Elon Musk, who has said such technology could cut the cost of spaceflight by a factor of 100.
SpaceX has had touchdown successes both on sea and on land; this past December, the company brought a Falcon 9 first stage down softly on terra firma at Cape Canaveral during a satellite launch.
The JCSAT-14 liftoff was originally scheduled for early Thursday morning, but bad weather on Florida's Space Coast pushed the attempt back a day.
Originally published on Space.com.