Falcon 9R destroyed during failed test flight


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In a test flight today of SpaceX’s Falcon 9R vertical take off and landing rocket the rocket was destroyed when ground controllers detected an “anomaly.”

Falcon 9R is a three engine version of the Falcon 9 first stage, designed to test designs for making that first stage capable of landing vertically. It has flown successfully a number of previous times, but this time it appears something was not quite right during the flight and ground controllers had to destroy it for safety reasons.

Is this a set back? Of course. Is it a failure? Not really, as it was a test flight of very cutting edge technology and even failures will teach you something to improve the engineering.

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6 comments

  • ken anthony

    Explosives terminated the flight. Put there for that purpose. The SpaceX bashers will overlook that, no doubt.

  • mpthompson

    Better to find out what can go wrong with the 9R now than with a real Falcon when all the world is watching. Just a glitch along the way to what a appears will soon be a stunning achievement.

  • geoffc

    It really looks like they were testing how far they could turn the vehicle, and they lost control, so flight termination system kicked in.

    That sounds like a normal edge case found, which was the purpose of the program.

    Looks very unrelated to launch ops.

  • Pzatchok

    I feel sorry for the cows.

    But it sort of looks like the engines cut off for a second or so and then refired but the rocket was way off vertical.

    Not being close to vertical is a major problem with this design. It makes any recovery very hard and more than likely would take up a lot of airspace. It would loose a lot of altitude before regaining full control.

  • Steve C

    Should any NASA apologists want to give Space X a hard time, here is a compilation of some of their efforts from the movie Right Stuff. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rwi_0DEd_0

  • Edward

    Steve,

    That is a favorite scene of mine. However, they had to tell a story in only a couple of minutes. The following is half an hour of the same story from the 1940s to the 2010s (Goddard’s failures in the 1920s are not included).
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McbCwSW2moo

    To continue with the point that you were making: getting into space is difficult and dangerous. There is a reason that rocket science is considered difficult. The scientists and engineers have a relatively small engine that burns fuel and oxidizer at a rate of tens of Megawatts to tens of thousands of Megawatts. That lightweight, high temperature, high pressure, vibrating, high thrust engine is located only a few feet away from a thin, lightweight fuel tank. If something goes just a little wrong, such as the vibrations increase, catastrophically bad things can happen very fast.

    Sometimes problems occur because of control problems. A rocket can get into an attitude in which it structurally breaks up due to atmospheric forces, or it may deviate from the planned course and head toward populated areas. A Long March actually crashed into the nearby town (24:15 mark in the above video).

    The “Big Boys” didn’t have problems only in the 1950s and early 1960s. They continue to have problems to this day.

    It’s rocket science.

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