Elon Musk has revealed video and details of the crash of the Falcon 9 booster as it attempted to make an historic powered landing after the launch of the CRS-5 mission. In a series of brief statements on Twitter, the SpaceX founder and CEO explained the cause of the crash and future plans for the company's ambitions to produce a fully reusable space launch system.
The crash of the Falcon 9 booster rocket came at the end of its mission to launch the unmanned CRS-5 resupply mission to the International Space Station. After separating from the second stage, the Falcon 9 first stage autonomously executed a series of engine burns, beginning with a "boostback" burn to set it on course for the landing site. This was followed by a supersonic retro propulsion burn to help slow it, then a final burn to slow it to 2 m/s (6.5 ft/s) as the landing legs deployed for an attempted soft touchdown on an unmanned barge located in the Atlantic Ocean.
NEW ATLAS NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT
Upgrade to a Plus subscription today, and read the site without ads.
It's just US$19 a year.UPGRADE NOW
It was at this point that things began to go wrong. Instead of coming down slow and straight, the Falcon 9 dropped at a precarious angle, striking the deck of the autonomous spaceport drone ship. The remaining fuel in the booster tanks detonated on impact, blasting the rocket to pieces and damaging deck equipment on the barge.
According to Musk, the cause of the crash was a failure of the grid-like hypersonic vanes that are used to control the attitude of the rocket during its descent through the Earth's atmosphere. Musk says that there was a 10 percent shortage of the hydraulic fluid used by the vanes by the time the rocket started its final landing maneuver, resulting in the rocket being unable to stay upright.
"Upcoming flight already has 50% more hydraulic fluid, so should have plenty of margin for landing attempt next month," Musk tweeted.
On Friday as a brief video of the crash was released, Musk added: "Next rocket landing on drone ship in 2 to 3 weeks w (sic) way more hydraulic fluid. At least it shd (sic) explode for a diff reason."
The video below shows the last seconds of the CRS-5 Falcon 9.