The first stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched on Friday returned to Port Canaveral in Florida in the early hours of this morning.
SpaceX confirmed the booster's early morning arrival at Port Canaveral on its official Twitter and Instagram accounts around 2:30 a.m.
Our exclusive photo was taken by Gerard van de Haar and shows the charred first stage of the rocket standing tall on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ autonomous ship near the port's 273-foot-tall cranes.
The Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 1643 local time on Friday carrying a Dragon capsule to the International Space Station.
About 10 minutes later, the first stage landed - and remained upright - on the ship stationed more than 200 miles down range in the Atlantic Ocean.
It was the first time SpaceX succeeded in landing a rocket stage at sea after four previous tries came close but ended with the stage crashing or tipping over.
A Falcon 9 booster landed on a landing pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in December but roughly half of SpaceX's missions cannot return to land because of their speed and trajectory, so achieving a water landing was a big step toward showing the company can recover more rockets for reuse.
SpaceX will now lift the 14-story rocket stage off the boat with a crane and set it on a stand, before it is transported to a hangar for inspections.
If it is in good enough condition, SpaceX hopes to test-fire the booster's nine Merlin engines multiple times and then attempt to launch it for a second time, possibly as soon as June, according to Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO.