The first stage booster of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket made a successful landing on the Just Read the Instructions (JRTI) drone ship after launching four astronauts to the International Space Station.
SpaceX shared a video of the booster deploying its landing legs before settling onto the JRTI’s landing platform, eliciting cheers from the command center.
JRTI is an autonomous spaceport drone ship (ASDS) that acts as a modified barge, outfitted with a landing platform for boosters at sea that don’t have enough fuel for a return-to-launch-site landing.
Wednesday’s mission marked the first time in 20 years, a Russian cosmonaut rocketed from the U.S., launching to the International Space Station alongside NASA and Japanese astronauts despite tensions over the war in Ukraine.
Anna Kikina, Russia's lone female cosmonaut, was among the three newcomers on the flight, alongside Marine Col. Nicole Mann, the first Native American woman to orbit the world, and Navy Capt. Josh Cassada. They were joined by Japan Space Agency's Koichi Wakata, who is making his fifth spaceflight.
They're due to arrive at the space station Thursday, 29 hours after departing from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, and won't be back on Earth until March. They're replacing a U.S.-Italian crew that arrived in April.
Their SpaceX flight was delayed by Hurricane Ian, which devastated parts of the state last week. The weather was ideal as the Falcon rocket blasted into a brilliant noontime sky.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.