SpaceX abandons rocket landing test

July 15, 2017 – 08:57 am

spacexArtist's impression of a SpaceX rocket landing.

After three attempts followed by three scrubbed launches, SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket on Wednesday at 6:03 pm ET.

For some, the launch was less exciting than the company's attempt to land a rocket on a barge in the Atlantic. If successful, the landing would have been the first in history, pioneering the way toward a new era or reusable rocket technology.

But SpaceX announced on the day of the scheduled, potentially historic landing, that the ocean waves are rocking the barge too much for a safe attempted landing. Instead, they would attempt a soft landing in the ocean, in which they try to control the rocket enough to land it vertically, though not on the drone ship.

Shortly after launch, SpaceX CEO and founder, Elon Musk, tweeted that the rocket had made it safely into the rocky ocean:

Rocket soft landed in the ocean within 10m of target & nicely vertical! High probability of good droneship landing in non-stormy weather.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk)

"The drone ship was designed to operate in all but the most extreme weather, " SpaceX stated in a recent report. "We are experiencing just such weather in the Atlantic with waves reaching up to three stories in height crashing over the decks."

Musk, retweeted this chart from TWC Space Weather showing just how high the waves have grown in the last few hours:

After Wednesday's launch, SpaceX will have 16 more chances in 2015 to attempt a rocket landing on the barge.

Musk didn't have high hopes for the success of this water-soft landing to retrieve the first stage for re-use, though:

Mega storm preventing droneship from remaining on station, so rocket will try to land on water. Survival probability — Elon Musk (@elonmusk)

SpaceX has never recovered a rocket for reuse. And they're taking extra precautions by not attempting the landing this time around because the first time around ended in a fiery explosion.


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