Space

Elon Musk releases video of Falcon 9 landing attempt

Elon Musk releases video of Fa...
Falcon 9 crashing on the deck of the barge (Photo: SpaceX)
Falcon 9 crashing on the deck of the barge (Photo: SpaceX)
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The drone spaceport where the Falcon 9 crashed (Photo: SpaceX)
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The drone spaceport where the Falcon 9 crashed (Photo: SpaceX)
The Falcon 9 showing the hypersonic vanes (Photo: SpaceX)
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The Falcon 9 showing the hypersonic vanes (Photo: SpaceX)
The Falcon 9 crash was due to a vane failure (Photo: SpaceX)
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The Falcon 9 crash was due to a vane failure (Photo: SpaceX)
Falcon 9 crashing on the deck of the barge (Photo: SpaceX)
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Falcon 9 crashing on the deck of the barge (Photo: SpaceX)
The Falcon 9 crash damaged the barge (Photo: SpaceX)
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The Falcon 9 crash damaged the barge (Photo: SpaceX)
CRS-5 lifting off (Photo: SpaceX)
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CRS-5 lifting off (Photo: SpaceX)
Tweet by Elon Musk about the next Falcon 9 launch
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Tweet by Elon Musk about the next Falcon 9 launch
Tweets by Elon Musk explaining the Falcon 9 crash
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Tweets by Elon Musk explaining the Falcon 9 crash
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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.

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.

The Falcon 9 showing the hypersonic vanes (Photo: SpaceX)
The Falcon 9 showing the hypersonic vanes (Photo: SpaceX)

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.

Source: Twitter, SpaceX

View gallery - 8 images
10 comments
Robert Walther
Incredible!
Bob Shock
Remember that in 60+ years of tax-funded multi-stage to orbit rocketry, this is the FIRST attempt at soft-landing one of the stages after launch and they came up just a little short!!!
aquaman
Elon, Your attempts are outstanding. A man not afraid to show and laugh at mistakes. My money's on you to win this thing and I'll be applauding all the way Cheers
Slaven
Better aiming next time :)
Toffe Carling
That is very impressive, Cool boom tho. But darn close id say. Good work SpaceX :D
ivo.gardner
Everything changes when the engine comes close to the ground. Nozzles should be at the top. Or, if the last few meters to fly with a rocket propeller on top as Roton.
Nostromo47
This and other articles of the event make no mention of previous successful rocket landings of booster prototypes by Space X. They can be found on YouTube and are quite dramatic. Also, for those previous tests, the Space X team had expressed their estimates of the likelihood of success. I had not heard that Elon Musk had made such a pronouncement in anticipation of this launch. This crash brought back memories of the "good old days" of the early Space Race when "our rockets always blew up." As bad as it may look, I would surmise that from an engineering standpoint, the mission might be looked upon as at least a partial success. After all, it did manage to "land" on the platform, albeit in a jarring way in flames.
RichDragon
Well at least it got to the barge and if there had been a safety net (think of something like you'd see under Circus high trapeze Artistes) it would have been caught and would have been successful.
StWils
Great Accomplishment ! But I still think some sort of capture system on the landing barge is essential. I would think an inflatable crash cushion with an outer surface of heat resistant ablative foam would be cheap, mostly reusable and very effective at dampening the last couple of dozen feet.
Riaanh
One of the things that I admired about Elon is that he has brought a human factor into the space race. - As mentioned above, not trying to sweep their mistakes under the carpet.
What is also nice about the company is that it does not seem to force launches to please politicians, bosses or shareholders. A launch only goes ahead if they are ready for it.