SpaceX launches cargo, but fails to land rocket

Federico Mansilla
Diciembre 6, 2018

"Dragon is on its way to the International Space Station".

"Falcon landed just out to sea".

SpaceX CEO and lead designer Elon Musk tweeted that the reusable booster was undamaged and appeared to be transmitting data.

The mission had been a complete success until the aborted landing.

CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter soon after the breathtaking loss of control and expected landing time, stating that the SpaceX team now pegged the failure on a grid fin's stalled hydraulic fin, which ultimately caused the wild spinning seen in the webcast.

The rest of the CRS-16 launch proceeded perfectly, with the Dragon spacecraft entering successful orbit, deploying its solar arrays, and beginning its chase of the ISS. Although it is nearly without a doubt too early to actually know if the booster is in good enough condition to ever fly again, Musk seemed to directly suggest that it could eventually relaunch in support of an "internal SpaceX mission", basically either Starlink or tech development. As promised, the company shared a video showing the rocket stabilizing as it approached the ocean, where it gracefully landed and then promptly tipped over, floating in the water. As in this case, the launch itself had been successful; that time, though, a lack of fuel resulted in a botched landing. "Given this event, we will likely add a backup pump & lines".

SpaceX wasn't the only one to film the dramatic moment.

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The clip below shows Gebhardt's and others' view from the ground. (Turn on the sound to hear their commentary.) Don't out-of-control rockets blow themselves up?

After a one day delay caused by moldy mice food, the latest SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon spacecraft lifted off Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Rockets that veer out of control typically self-destruct using what's called an automated flight termination system, or AFTS. Only reigniting the booster's engines for a precise landing burn would have pulled it off that trajectory and toward the ground pad.

"A water-ditch landing is safer than an exploding rocket close to the ground", he told Business Insider.

The mission is SpaceX's 16th for NASA, as part of a long-term contract to ferry supplies to space. The crew-carrying version of Dragon is schedule to fly a test mission next month, and if all goes well, will carry astronauts to the station later in the year in what would be the first crewed flight from US soil since the space shuttles retired in 2011.

NASA requires SpaceX to perform at least seven launches with the redesigned COPVs before the agency will allow its astronauts to fly on the vehicle.

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