After Bad Weather, SpaceX Will Try Again To Land A

February 12, 2018 – 11:45 am

Update 8:30 a.m. ET 4/15/2015: And now we have video! Unfortunately, it cuts off before we can see the rocket fully tip over:

Update 4:32 p.m. ET: According to a tweet from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the rocket hit the ship deck but did not land smoothly:

Update: 4:15 p.m. ET: Liftoff! Check back soon for news of the ocean landing attempt.

Elon Musk's private spaceflight company SpaceX has planned a second experimental rocket landing for today after engineers scrubbed yesterday's launch just three minutes before liftoff due to a nearby storm cloud. The Falcon 9 rocket will launch a supply capsule toward the International Space Station and then automatically coordinate a rendezvous with a robotic ship in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX has described the maneuver as "like trying to balance a rubber broomstick on your hand in the middle of a wind storm."

The payoff will be huge if SpaceX can figure out how to recover rockets for later launches, rather than letting them fall into the ocean and become trash. If all goes according to plan, the Falcon 9 rocket will lift off today at 4:10 p.m. ET, with the barge landing attempt taking place about 10 minutes after.

A previous landing attempt by SpaceX, on January 10, ended in a glorious fireball when the rocket's aerodynamic fins, which control its descent to the floating platform, ran out of hydraulic fluid just before touchdown. See the Vine below:

The primary mission today is to send supplies and material for scientific experiments to the International Space Station. The Falcon 9 rocket will launch the cargo capsule, then detach and attempt the barge touchdown. The experimental landing is separate from the resupply mission, which will not be affected should the rocket fail to land gently.

Falcon 9 Rocket

  • 224.4 feet tall
  • 1, 115, 200 pounds
  • 16 successful launches to date

As I wrote previously, SpaceX hypothetically will be able to save millions of dollars by reusing its vehicles if it can successfully land its rockets after space launches. "I think if we can recover the stage intact and relaunch it, the potential is there for a truly revolutionary impact in space transport costs, " Musk said last year. SpaceX currently works with NASA to ferry astronauts and cargo to and from the International Space Station. The company is also building a private spaceport in Texas to support commercial missions.


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