SpaceX may try to make history with its next launch later this month, returning its rocket to a landing pad rather than an ocean-based platform, a NASA official said on Tuesday.
Carol Scott, who works technical integration for SpaceX within NASA's Commercial Crew Program, told reporters here at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station today that SpaceX's first attempt at a land-based rocket landing may be coming sooner than the public expects.
"You know how they want to fly the stage back, right? Their plan is to land it out here on the Cape [Canaveral] side," Scott told reporters.
SpaceX declined to comment on Scott's remarks when contacted by Space.com.
Still working to recover from its Falcon 9 rocket launch failure in June, SpaceX has been targeting a return to flight for this month. The company is slated to loft 12 Orbcomm OG2 satellites from its Complex 40 launchpad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in mid-December.
That launch was expected to include SpaceX's next attempt at landing the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on an autonomous spaceport drone ship, a floating platform deployed in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX representatives, including CEO Elon Musk, have said in the past that if the rocket stages can be recovered and reused, the cost of launching satellites and other payloads could be reduced significantly.
Prior to the June rocket failure, which resulted in the loss of an unmanned SpaceX Dragon spacecraft bound for the International Space Station, SpaceX had twice attempted to land a Falcon 9 booster on an ocean-based drone ship. Both times, the landing failed in the final seconds, resulting in the booster hitting the platform and exploding.
In February, SpaceX leased a former launch facility to create the first-ever "landing pad" at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The company said it intended to transition from using the drone ship to landing on the pad as it advanced its plans for reusing its rockets.