A few days ago, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket successfully delivered the THAICOM 8, a commercial communications satellite for Thaicom, to Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO). GTO is a high elliptical orbit, and when we say “high,” we mean high. It is more than 32,000 km (20,000 miles) above the Earth.
And after the lunch? The rocket successfully landed on a floating barge in the middle of the ocean.
SpaceX released footage of the landing, which was filmed from on-board the Falcon 9 rocket. As a result, it looks like you're catching a ride back down to Earth along with the booster. See the event in the footage below:
Ultimately, SpaceX (and many others) are getting into the reusable rocket game because, well, it is a lot cheaper.
Where it can take up to $60 million to make the rocket, it costs as little as $200,000 to fuel the Falcon 9. So having a rocket go up to space and not get destroyed on the way down would be ideal. But why the barge? Why the ocean? This all comes down to fuel.
It requires a great deal of fuel to land the first stage on the ground by reigniting the engine and reducing the speed from more than 8,000 km/h (5,000 mph) down to zero. A barge in the sea reduces the travel distance back to Earth to perform a landing, as the rocket doesn't have to travel as far.