“Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho,” said Elon Musk on Twitter.
Early this morning, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off perfectly from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. About three minutes after launch, the 140-foot tall rocket separated from the Dragon cargo spacecraft, which is now on its way to bring supplies and experiments to the International Space Station. That part of the mission looks like it’s going to be a complete success. But the revolutionary part, not so much.
After the Falcon 9 rocket carried the cargo craft into orbit — Dragon is still making its way to the ISS at the time of this writing– the two stages separated, with the portion containing the boosters and fuel returning to Earth. Traditionally, these rockets are left to crash into the ocean or burn up in the atmosphere. But SpaceX wanted to recapture and reuse Falcon 9. If re-igniting and repositioning the rocket on its way back to Earth could help it safely land somewhere, it could be used again quickly, hopefully proving that this is a viable way to cut the costs of getting to space. The rocket stage was intended to land safely on an autonomous barge floating in the Atlantic. It didn’t quite go as planned.
Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho. — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 10, 2015
Didn’t get good landing/impact video. Pitch dark and foggy. Will piece it together from telemetry and … actual pieces.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 10, 2015
But at least failure was an option. Musk and his team will look at what went wrong and try again. The drone barge itself “is fine,” and will need only minor repairs. Musk indicated on Twitter that the team already has some sense of what to change for the next test, and is optimistic that SpaceX will have the proof of this concept soon. Always bet on the Musk. [As a side note, this is what it looked like when the liquid fuel in the Falcon 9 rocket met with microgravity. It’s like a Stargate (GIF by yours truly).]
Elon Musk just released this footage of the Falcon 9 barge crash. While the explosion is spectacular, it looks like it got pretty close to a decent landing!
IMAGE: NASA/Jim Grossmann