The SpaceX Dragon capsule has successfully bolted to the International Space Station, where it will spend four weeks as it resupplies the orbiting platform during its fifth official mission as a supply ferry. The SpaceX craft launched on January 10, and then began its approach of the ISS just a few hours ago, before successfully attaching for docking purposes at approximately 8:56 AM ET.
With this launch, SpaceX also attempted to use its autonomous spaceport drone ship to recapture the first stage rocket for re-use for the first time. The good news is that the rocket did make it back to the drone ship; the bad news is that per SpaceX themselves, the landing was hard and further analysis of the operation and evaluation of telemetry data is required to ensure that future attempts to land the rocket go more smoothly.
SpaceX’s drone landing ships are huge converted barges with flat surfaces that operate autonomously, compensating for environmental factors including rough seas and variable wind conditions to remain stable within three meters and anticipate the first stage rocket’s landing trajectory. The fact that it performed as well as it did in this trial should bode well for future viability of the tech.