SpaceX has released video of its Falcon 9 first stage splashing down vertically in the ocean.


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SpaceX has released video of its Falcon 9 first stage splashing down vertically in the ocean.

The video is not very good, but at one point you can clearly see for a flash that the first stage is vertical and appears to be hovering above the water.

For decades engineers and managers in the aerospace industry have said that returning a first stage vertically made no sense. Elon Musk insisted that SpaceX try. It appears he and his company are now going to prove that everyone else was wrong about this.

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8 comments

  • Kelly Starks

    >…For decades engineers and managers in the aerospace industry have said that returning a first stage vertically
    > made no sense. Elon Musk insisted that SpaceX try. It appears he and his company are now going to prove that
    > everyone else was wrong about this.

    ??
    What aerospace industry? How did Musk prove them wrong?

    No one ever said you couldn’t do it – though landing a tall thin booster on its tail is a pain due to stability issues. Its not clear how SpaceX will deal with that.

    Obviously rockets landing on their tails, most famously the LEM and DC-X were proposed and done.

    The big problem is your converting a booster config that’s not good for reusability. Its like trying to turn a race car into a truck. Definitely doing things the hard and expensive way.

  • Pzatchok

    Actually using a first stage rocket one time and only one time is like taking an F-1 race car and using it in an demolition derby.

    All that time, effort and expense put into building and launching a perfect vehicle is all just tossed out the window and thrown away in one spectacular event.

    At least this way there is a chance that it can be recovered and rebuilt at a lesser expense. And reusing 90% of the first stage hardware just once reduces the costs noticeably.

    The LEM was proposed and done. But sadly not reused. So again it was just thrown away.

    DC-X was never intended to actually make orbit or even space for that matter. It was only created to prove vertical take off and landing. Which it did just fine many times. But since it was not needed at the time and did not do everything people wanted, it was scrapped when the prototype crashed and burned.

  • Edward

    “when the prototype crashed and burned.”

    This event may have reinforced the opinion of those engineers and managers who weren’t keen on returning a first stage vertically. I hope that Musk is able to show that they could/should have been doing this for decades, saving money, lowering costs, and opening up space to more customers. How far behind are we in the development of space because NASA did not get to be as creative as it was in the 1960s and that creative space companies had such a difficult time competing with NASA?

    NASA and Grumman protected the astronauts, in that the LM’s legs had to deploy before the craft was committed to descent for landing on the surface; if a leg failed to deploy, no landing attempt. This assured that the LM would not suffer the same fate as the DC-X. It looks like they had enough imagination of what might go wrong to avoid some of it.

  • Dick Eagleson

    landing a tall thin booster on its tail is a pain due to stability issues. Its not clear how SpaceX will deal with that.

    Perhaps watching a few of the numerous Grasshopper videos available on-line will clear that little matter up for you.

  • Kelly Starks

    Why does Musk use different physics then the rest of the world?

  • Kelly Starks

    > .. DC-X was never intended to actually make orbit or even space for that matter. It was only created to prove vertical take off and landing. ..

    No actually, that was old hat and no one questioned it. The DC-X was built to verify the low cost serviceability of the design – which it did – and test all the basic systems in a subscale demonstrator.

  • Pzatchok

    One of the largest problems with a vertical landing craft back then was control.

    They just didn’t have the computers and machines to do it reliably enough.

    We have everything now. Fast enough computers, sensors, material and mechanics to get the job done cheaply and lightly.

    All of those past design prototypes suffered from pretty much the very same things. Almost all eventually failed and crashed because of control problems.

    We knew how to make a flying wing back in the 50’s but it took until the 80’s to perfect it all because of control problems.

    The same with lifting body craft. And the same with all the vertical landing craft. None had the control that the grasshopper tests are showing is possible.

    NASA could have been on the cutting edge of all this if it had not forgotten its past attempts and retried them with modern equipment. We as a nation could have been doing what Space X is doing now, 15 if not 20 years

  • Kelly Starks

    > One of the largest problems with a vertical landing craft back then was control.

    > They just didn’t have the computers and machines to do it reliably enough.

    No, that was never considered a issue – and several rocket and jet VTOL craft were built, some went operational. (LEM Harrier are famous ones.) I’ve even seen off the shelf craft like fighters to do it in shows (one directly over my head, which is NOT acceptable airshow protocol!!!).

    Its not a technical advance or milestone.

    > We knew how to make a flying wing back in the 50′s but it took until the 80′s to perfect it all because of control problems.

    True her. Flying wings have stability problems. You could build them Eiather way, and you could do flight control that would make them safe without modern electronics, but their a lot safer with them.

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