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Dragon Launches to Station, but Falcon Doesn't Stick Landing

Posted by Jason Davis

14-04-2015 15:53 CDT

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

Despite an early threat of thunderstorm-producing cumulus clouds that scrubbed yesterday’s launch, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off as scheduled today at 4:10 p.m. EDT (20:10 UTC). Roosting atop Falcon was a Dragon spacecraft laden with two tons of International Space Station-bound cargo.

Dragon made it safely to orbit without a hitch. But the second attempt to land Falcon's first stage on an autonomous drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean fell short. According to flight controllers on SpaceX's audio feed, the first stage executed its boostback, entry and landing burns as planned. Nineteen minutes after liftoff, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced that the Falcon landed on the drone ship, but did not survive: 

SpaceX also released a Vine video showing the rocket sway as it came in for landing:

At about two minutes, forty seconds into the flight—80 kilometers above the ocean—Falcon’s nine Merlin 1D engines fell silent. The first stage separated, the second stage engine came to life and Dragon was pushed onward to orbit with a seven-minute burn.

Meanwhile, the spent first stage, traveling more than three kilometers per second, began a series of maneuvers and engine burns to refine its trajectory for a landing at sea. Live video from cameras aboard the second stage captured puffs coming from the first stage thrusters, as the vehicle began its flip maneuver in preparation for a boostback burn.

Falcon approaches Just Read the Instructions


Falcon approaches Just Read the Instructions
The first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket approaches Just Read the Instructions, as seen from a chase plane over the Atlantic Ocean.

Dragon will spend three days traveling to the International Space Station. It is scheduled to arrive Friday morning, when it will be grappled by astronauts Samantha Cristoforetti and Terry Virts. Capture is scheduled for 7:00 a.m. EDT.

Just Read the Instructions heads out to sea


Just Read the Instructions heads out to sea
SpaceX's autonomous drone ship, Just Read the Instructions, heads out to sea before the launch of CRS-6.
See other posts from April 2015


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


Bob Ware: 04/14/2015 06:43 CDT

Hmm? So darn close yet .... Since you guys have seem to have perfected the landing zone have you thought about an alternate capture on the deck instead? An example: shock absorber type of sheeting or netting would catch and ease the booster to the deck or a deflating pressurized bag instead.

bob Ware: 04/14/2015 06:49 CDT

On the booster a circular landing ring or multiple steering veins centrally placed could flip open and act as a landing ring to offset stress on the booster as it sits on its side.

Arbitrary: 04/15/2015 12:56 CDT

@Bob Ware Any capture technique would be cheating, a short term shortcut. Just let the engines do the whole job and trust the thrust! It should be able to land anywhere. The plan is to land humans on Mars this way, in a desolate frozen alien desert.

Sameer: 04/15/2015 09:28 CDT

I would like to see a succcessful landing using only the rocket engines and landing legs without any kind of capture system. I think they are pretty close to achieving that. Hopefully they get it on the next attempt in June. Any lessons learned will hopefully also be applicable to the Dragon 2 landing system using the SuperDraco thrusters.

Tony Fisk: 04/15/2015 11:18 CDT

The way the rocket was swinging increasingly wildly as it descended suggests it was losing its balance, the way someone about to fall off a log starts over-correcting. SpaceX no doubt has a lot more telemetry on the matter. Keep trying, folks. It'll come.

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