Dramatic new photos and video of the daring and mostly successful attempt by Space X to land their Falcon 9 booster on an ocean-going “drone ship” were released this morning, Friday, Jan. 16, by SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk.
Musk posted the imagery online via his twitter account and they vividly show just how close his team came to achieving total success in history’s first attempt to land and recover a rocket on a tiny platform in the ocean.
Here’s the video: “Close, but no cigar. This time.”
The rocket landing and recovery attempt was a secondary objective of SpaceX, that immediately followed the spectacular nighttime blastoff of the Falcon 9 on Jan. 10 carrying the SpaceX Dragon cargo freighter spacecraft on a critical resupply mission for NASA bound for the space station.
The history making attempt at recovering the Falcon 9 first stage was a first of its kind experiment to accomplish a pinpoint soft landing of a rocket onto a miniscule platform at sea using a rocket assisted descent by the first stage Merlin engines aided by steering fins.
The first stage rocket reached an altitude of over 100 miles after firing nine Merlins as planned for nearly three minutes. It had to be slowed from traveling at a velocity of about 2, 900 mph (1300 m/s). The descent maneuver has been likened to someone balancing a rubber broomstick on their hand in the middle of a fierce wind storm.
Musk tweeted that the first stage Falcon 9 booster ran out of hydraulic fluid and thus hit the barge.
“Rocket hits hard at ~45 deg angle, smashing legs and engine section, ” Musk explained today.
Lacking hydraulic fluid the boosters attached steering fins lost power just before impact.
“Before impact, fins lose power and go hardover. Engines fights to restore, but …, ” Musk added.
“Residual fuel and oxygen combine.”
“Full RUD (rapid unscheduled disassembly) event. Ship is fine minor repairs. Exciting day!” said Musk.
“Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho, ” Musk tweeted within hours after the launch and recovery attempt.
As I wrote on launch day here at Universe Today, despite making a ‘hard landing’ on the vessel dubbed the ‘autonomous spaceport drone ship, ’ the 14 story tall Falcon 9 first stage did make it to the drone ship, positioned some 200 miles offshore of the Florida-Carolina coast, northeast of the launch site in the Atlantic Ocean. The rocket broke into pieces upon hitting the barge.
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