SpaceX has landed a couple rockets in a row on its drone barge, but that doesn’t mean that it ever gets old. There’s something about vertically landing a rocket at high speeds — a process that’s been compared to vaulting a pencil over the Empire State Building — that defies belief every time.
The video SpaceX posted to Vine shows the return of the recent THAICOM 8 mission, a commercial comms satellite that needed to get to a high orbit above Southeast Asia. Getting a satellite that high means going faster and higher, which creates problems for the landing. The Falcon 9 first stage uses whatever leftover fuel it has to decelerate and land, so the higher and faster the rocket has to go for launch, the less fuel it has to slow down before hitting the barge.
Despite the difficulties involved, the Falcon 9 nailed the landing on the Of Course I Still Love You drone barge. Even though it had a high approach speed, it seems like the rocket wasn’t damaged on landing, and never appeared to be in danger of tipping over.
SpaceX already created a fantastic time-lapse video from the rocket’s point of view, but seeing the landing from the barge’s perspective adds a whole new dimension. To help protect the rocket itself from damage in the landing, the legs have a “crush core.” Much like the crumple zone in the front of a car, the legs crumple a little to absorb energy and protect the expensive part of the rocket.
The side effect, however, is that the rocket sits at a rather alarming angle on the barge when returning to port.