SpaceX will try landing a Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship again this Sunday

February 10, 2018 – 11:39 am

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Private space firm SpaceX has a rocket launch scheduled for Sunday, but this could become more than just another resupply mission. This will be the third time SpaceX has attempted to land its first stage Falcon 9 rocket after a take off. The last two attempts didn’t end in success, but maybe this time they’ll nail it and kick off a whole new era of spaceflight.

The Falcon 9 is the launch vehicle for the Dragon capsule, which is currently an unmanned vessel used only for supply runs to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Cargo Resupply (CRS) Program. In the future, SpaceX plans to fly a manned version of the Dragon capsule to transport people to and from the ISS.

Previously, the Falcon 9 worked like any other rocket. The first stage would burn through its fuel, then detach from the second stage payload and fall harmlessly into the ocean. That’s awfully wasteful, though, so SpaceX started working on reusable rockets that could land vertically under their own power for reuse in future launches.

Before attempting the full landing, SpaceX did a soft landing in the ocean, which went well. Now it’s working on landing rockets on a drone ship, which is essentially a floating landing pad. The first try in January ended with a fiery explosion when the rocket ran out of hydraulic fluid used to power the fins on final approach. The second attempt in April was so close to being a success it almost hurts to watch (which you can below). After touching down, the rocket still had too much lateral momentum and tipped over, resulting in another explosion. You can actually see the RCS thruster at the top of the rocket firing in a futile attempt to keep it upright immediately before it tips over.

Having seen two distinct ways the landing can fail, perhaps the third time will be the charm and SpaceX will successfully land the Falcon 9. Being able to salvage and refurbish the first stage rocket would give SpaceX a huge advantage in cost savings compared to the older rockets in use at other companies.

The launch is scheduled for a little after 10AM on the east coast this Sunday, June 28th. This will be the first resupply mission since the Russian Progress capsule malfunctioned in April, eventually burning up in the atmosphere before it could reach the station. The landing will take place just a few minutes later. SpaceX hasn’t been streaming the landings, but does report the results in short order. Videos will surely be provided afterward, successful or not.


Source: www.extremetech.com

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