Today’s rocket launch featured a special test that could make space travel drastically cheaper. The SpaceX team was hoping to recover the first stage rocket by navigating it into the ocean without it burning up on the way down.
Sadly, they probably won’t be able to recover the rocket, mostly because the seas are currently so rough that it isn’t safe to send the boats out to check on it. When it’s safe they will send people out.
This was the first time they have launched the Falcon 9’s first stage rocket equipped with the four “landing legs,” which are integral in the stage’s recovery. The Falcon 9’s first stage rocket separates from the capsule during launch and they hoped to perform a re-entry engine burn to make sure it isn’t destroyed when it falls back to Earth. It is supposed to land in the ocean, where the SpaceX team has to go recover it.
They said previously said that the chances of this procedure working correctly and resulting in the first stage actually being recovered are low, placing at the odds of success at between 30% and 40%. Those odds are even lower now.
Elon Musk said on Twitter that the re-ignition was successful, and they were able to stabilise the rocket’s roll. It seems that most things seem to have been working pretty well. The last they saw, the rocket was on track to land in the targeted spot.
But Musk said in a press conference that “due to heavy sea state, [he’s] not giving high odds for successful landing.”
“I consider it a success in the sense that we were able to control the role rate at 0%,” Musk said in a press conference. “This time with more powerful thrusters and more nitrogen propellant we were able to null the roll rate.”
He also noted that they discovered the legs don’t have any negative impact on launch.
He said he’s confident they will be able to recover a rocket this year, and even relaunch a recovered rocket hopefully next year.
There was a strange plume of smoke that seemed to stain the side of the rocket during take off. You can see it in the GIF below:
According to Alan Boyle: “@SpaceX team says the “dark plume” seen during launch presents no concerns for #ISS resupply mission.”
Elon said in the press conference that they wet the launch pad with dirty water and “we essentially spilled dirty water on ourselves.”
The main part of the mission — sending cargo to the International Space Station, is on track. The Dragon spacecraft will reach the International Space Station on Wednesday, and the astronauts will “grapple” it and connect it to the space station at approximately 7:14 a.m. EDT.
The Dragon spacecraft is carrying more than 4,000 pounds of supplies and equipment to the space station on the third of its 12 resupply missions required in their $US1.6 billion contract with NASA.
Here’s the launch again, from the NASA Kennedy YouTube:
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.