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Jason DavisApril 14, 2015

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


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: 

Ascent successful. Dragon enroute to Space Station. Rocket landed on droneship, but too hard for survival.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 14, 2015

Looks like Falcon landed fine, but excess lateral velocity caused it to tip over post landing

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 14, 2015

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

Please accept marketing-cookies to watch this video.

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.

Read more: Commercial spaceflight, mission status, International Space Station, rockets

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Jason Davis

Editorial Director for The Planetary Society
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