Falcon 9 successfully launches, descends to off-balance landing

March 11, 2017 – 08:45 pm

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral at 4:10 p.m. EDT (2010 GMT). Credit: SpaceXSpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched from Cape Canaveral with a 2.2-ton package of supplies and experiments for the International Space Station on Tuesday, but the booster toppled over after descending to a barge parked in the Atlantic Ocean.

The rocket achieved its primary goal, setting course for a three-day chase of the space station by SpaceX’s Dragon commercial cargo carrier after a smooth liftoff from Cape Canaveral’s Complex 40 launch pad at 4:10:41 p.m. EDT (2010:41 GMT).

But the rocket’s landing attempt — a widely-watched experimental objective — ran into problems just as it contacted SpaceX’s football field-sized barge positioned about 200 miles northeast of Cape Canaveral.

The Falcon 9’s lower section, or first stage, detached from the rocket’s second stage less than three minutes after lifting off from Florida. Rocket boosters normally fall back to the ground uncontrolled and are only used once.

SpaceX is testing a new paradigm in rocketry, with ambitions to recover, refurbish and refly rocket boosters to allow more launches at less cost.

A Falcon 9 rocket climbs away from Cape Canaveral in this photo from the roof of Kennedy Space Center's iconic Vehicle Assembly Building. Credit: NASA/Kim ShiflettSpaceX tried a barge landing once before, but the rocket ran out of hydraulic fluid to steer aerodynamic fins designed to keep the first stage correctly pointed during descent. The booster came down on the landing platform at an angle, struck the corner of the barge and disintegrated in a fireball.

Tuesday’s landing attempt appeared to have a better result, but the rocket did not survive, according to a series of tweets by Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and chief executive.

“Looks like Falcon landed fine, but excess lateral velocity caused it to tip over post landing, ” Musk tweeted.

A brief video clip released by SpaceX after the landing showed the rocket’s four landing legs extended, but the booster appears to oscillate before contacting the barge. SpaceX’s video does not show what happened next, ending before the rocket falls over on the platform.

SpaceX employees on a control ship near the remotely-operated barge planned to approach the landing platform later Tuesday to retrieve wreckage before sailing to the ship’s home port in Jacksonville, Florida.

The rough landing occurred less than 10 minutes after launching from Florida’s Space Coast and reaching a maximum altitude of about 125 kilometers — 77 miles — on an arcing trajectory northeast of Cape Canaveral.

Source: spaceflightnow.com

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