Space

Latest Falcon 9 sea landing fails

Latest Falcon 9 sea landing fa...
Jason-3 lifting off
Jason-3 lifting off
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Jason-3 being rolled to the launch pad
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Jason-3 being rolled to the launch pad
The Falcon 9 rocket has already made a successful powered landing from space
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The Falcon 9 rocket has already made a successful powered landing from space
The Jason-3 rolling gout
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The Jason-3 rolling gout
The Jason-3 upright
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The Jason-3 upright
The Jason-3 fuelling
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The Jason-3 fuelling
Jason-3 lifting off
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Jason-3 lifting off

SpaceX's latest attempt to make a powered landing on a sea barge has ended in failure. At 10:51 am PST, a Falcon 9 booster touched down on the unmanned drone barge "Just Read the Instructions" in Pacific Ocean 250 miles (402 km) off San Diego, but telemetry indicated that a landing leg buckled on touchdown. The failed landing came about nine minutes after the Falcon 9 delivered the Jason-3 mission into a polar low-Earth orbit.

Jason-3 lifted off at 10:42 am PST from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, under foggy skies with winds of 5 mph (8 km/h). At one minute, 18 seconds into the flight, the Falcon 9 rocket reached the moment of peak mechanical stress followed by first stage shutdown at two minutes, 34 seconds. Three seconds later, the second stage separated and fired at the two minutes, 45 seconds mark. Fifty five minutes after liftoff, the second stage briefly fired again and one minute later the Jason-3 satellite deployed.

Operated by the USNOAA, NASA, the French Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), Jason-3 is designed to collect long-term satellite altimetry observations of global sea surface height to measure sea level rise, as well as provide forecasting of hurricanes, surface waves. tides and currents, coastal conditions, and El Niño and La Niña events.

Meanwhile, the Falcon 9 first stage, instead of crashing into the ocean, re-oriented itself and executed a "boostback" burn to kill its suborbital hypersonic velocity, followed by a re-entry burn three minutes later to further slow it down. As it re-entered the atmosphere, A set of vanes deployed on the top of the booster and acted as rudders to guide the rocket down. as it approached the barge, the engines fired for a final time before touching down nine minutes after liftoff. Telemetry indicated that the landing was harder than planned, resulting in a landing leg failure and the rocket falling over.

The Jason-3 upright
The Jason-3 upright

On December 21, 2015, a Falcon 9 booster flew into the history books as it touched down on Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida for the first powered landing of a space rocket on land. Today's attempt was the third time SpaceX has tried to land on an unmanned drone barge at sea.

Update January 17: Elon Musk posted a video to his personal Instagram account hours after the landing attempt took place and it is well worth a look. After further reviewing the data, SpaceX announced that the booster landed softly within 1.3 m of the droneship's center, but one of the four legs didn't lockout, leaving it to topple over. Musk says this may have been caused by ice buildup resulting from condensation due to heavy fog at launch.

Source: SpaceX

16 comments
Teaser-Trailer.com
Well this was the older rocket model, maybe they should just switch to the new version from now on.
Richard Chesher
Heavy seas? Don't the engineers understand the concept of dynamic loading? Barge rising quickly on sea, Rocket coming down quickly. Wham. Not exactly rocket science. What's wrong with landing on land? If they are concerned with potential collateral damage there is always a suitable desert with nobody around.
Racqia Dvorak
Well, I understand why they're doing the sea landings, but they're not doing their PR any advantages by trying to land on rough seas.
MidwestB
@Richard The rocket landed softly, but one of the legs didn't lock in properly. Gizmag decided to post this article without waiting for the full story to be released about the soft landing. Also, for some missions such as this one which required a polar orbit, it's not always possible for the rocket to have enough fuel to make it all the way back to the pad. If it can land on a platform in the ocean and be towed back, there are still savings to be had.
Gavin Roe
I think there is a flaw in the concept, even in the old movies the vertical landing rockets had legs or landed horizontally
Grunchy
I'm sure they didn't have half this trouble back in the '60s with the moon landings.
Fred Borman
If he insists on landing at sea why not use a parachute and flotation bags?
DeGueb
@MidwestB I was wondering why try to land on a ship. Still it seems to me like trying to balance a pencil on my little finger in a hurricane!! Amazing stuff!!!
Lance
Why do they want to land it on a barge at sea?
Nostromo47
"Failure?" Hardly. The booster came back from a hypersonic flight and guided back to a tiny floating platform at sea. Once there, it was slowed by its rocket motor in a completely controlled manner to land within two meters of the intended landing spot. All of that occurred after successfully launching its payload into earth orbit. The landing gear failed to support the booster on touchdown, admittedly. But otherwise what Space-X had done was a tremendous technical accomplishment. This kind of landing boosters business is completely beyond "conventional" rocketry. This is experimental stuff and they're making it up as they're going along because it has never been done before. Back during the Space Race with the Russians, "failure" meant blowing up on the launch pad in a gigantic orange inferno. Going into space (and now returning) with rockets is still pretty iffy, despite the fact that after nearly three quarters of century of doing it, we can pull it off fairly reliably. It will probably never be as reliable as jet airline travel is today, and even that's not 100% as you well know.