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Dragon Reaches Orbit, but Falcon Stage Crashes on Recovery Ship

Posted by Jason Davis

10-01-2015 5:00 CST

Topics: commercial spaceflight, mission status, human spaceflight, International Space Station

SpaceX’s ambitious attempt to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on an autonomous ocean platform was "close, but no cigar." CEO Elon Musk revealed the fate of the first stage on Twitter just 28 minutes after liftoff, saying the rocket made it back to the landing site but crashed, damaging equipment aboard the recovery ship. The ship itself, he said, was "fine." Meanwhile, the mission's primary goal of sending a Dragon cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station began without a hitch, as an early morning sunrise greeted the vehicle's solar arrays after they deployed in orbit.

The flight began at 4:47 a.m. EST (9:47 UTC), as the Falcon 9 soared into the night sky at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Shortly after first stage separation, flight controllers reported the first stage completed the first of three burns designed to refine the rocket’s trajectory in preparation for landing. Moments later, a second burn slowed the stage as it plummeted back to Earth. 


SpaceX CRS-5 liftoff

At that point, the Falcon 9 travelled over the horizon from Cape Canaveral, resulting in an expected loss of signal. But within minutes, onsite recovery ships relayed the bad news.

Over the next two days, Dragon will catch up with the International Space Station, closing in on Monday. At about 6:00 a.m. EST, Expedition 42 Commander Barry Wilmore will snag the spacecraft with the station’s robotic arm. Dragon will then be hauled to the Earth-facing port of the station’s Harmony node for berthing. Dragon, which is packed with more than two tons of cargo, will be unloaded and remain berthed to the station for about a month.

Liftoff of Falcon 9 CRS-5 mission


Liftoff of Falcon 9 CRS-5 mission
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft begin the company's fifth paid cargo run to the International Space Station.
See other posts from January 2015


Or read more blog entries about: commercial spaceflight, mission status, human spaceflight, International Space Station


Mark Zambelli: 01/10/2015 12:02 CST

It's a shame the landing experiment was 'only' about 90% successful (after all, it made it back to the spaceport!) and I'm sure it won't phaze them a bit, kudos. I must say, the internal camera inside the second stage fuel tank is a stroke of genius... it's mesmerising watching the fuel level decline and then, with main engine cutoff, the show starts... absolutely jawdropping. Good luck SpaceX with the Dragon hookup and the future in general.

Chris Z: 01/10/2015 01:13 CST

NASA did the same thing, putting a camera inside the fuel tank during launch. They probably suggested this to SpaceX as NASA has given them a lot of technical support. Saturn rocket fuel tank videos:

Mark Zambelli: 01/10/2015 03:38 CST

Thanks for those links Chris, and info... awesome.

Gregk: 01/12/2015 10:49 CST

Of course I was disappointed that the first stage didn't land successfully, but it's very impressive how close they got. In the previous "water landings," we had no idea whether the stage was anywhere near its intended destination. It's also great how routine getting Dragon to the ISS is becoming.

Bob Ware: 01/14/2015 07:46 CST

Congratulations in making it this far in this new technique as fast as you did! Maybe a shock absorbing clamping system may help. I don't know anything about the design. Maybe you have it ruled it out for some reason. Keep at it though! You have everything to gain. Anyone can land on a solid surface but water...! Wow!

andy: 01/16/2015 07:16 CST

This has been done before on other Planetary bodies and is therefore good practice. They must get this right before going to the moon, etc. Good first attempt but far from perfect.

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