In the quest to fully recover the Falcon 9 first stage and validate the Grasshopper flights, Elon Musk announced that SpaceX will attempt a water “landing” on a flight later this year. At a conference that included NASA Elon Musk talked about SpaceX’s plans.
“Initial recovery test will be a water landing. First stage continue in ballistic arc and execute a velocity reduction burn before it enters atmosphere to lessen impact. Right before splashdown, will light up the engine again. Emphasizes that we don’t expect success in the first several attempts. Hopefully next year with more experience and data, we should be able to return the first stage to the launch site and do a propulsion landing on land using legs.” -Elon Musk
Along with the change to the Merlin 1D engines the recovery of a first stage would be a significant event. The Merlin 1Ds offer a significant power boost and redundancy to the Falcon 9 Musk went on to say that he expects the first recovery flight will happen sometime around the middle of next year.