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Why SpaceX Needs to Land a Rocket on a Floating Drone

A safe landing on the ocean is key to Elon Musk's dream of sending spacecraft to Mars and back
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Why SpaceX Wants to Recycle Rockets

SpaceX made history last month by landing one of its Falcon 9 rocket stages on land. Elon Musk's company now wants to pull off that same feat on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean, a maneuver that has been attempted without success twice before off the coast of Florida.

The sea-landing bid will come Sunday after the scheduled launch of the Jason-3 satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. SpaceX has ample reasons to keep trying to perfect this landing-at-sea technique, despite the immense technical difficulties of trying to slow a rocket traveling roughly 5,000 mph and land it on a bobbing platform. Foremost among them: Spacecraft returning from lunar orbit, Mars, and other deep reaches of the solar system fly at much higher speeds than those in low-earth orbit, such as NASA's space shuttle.