Dragon reaches orbit

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Another successful Falcon 9 launch for SpaceX this morning, placing a Dragon capsule in the correct orbit for rendezvous and berthing with ISS.

We still await word on the attempt to land the first stage of the rocket on a barge in the Atlantic. From the link above: “SpaceX founder Elon Musk has tweeted an update: ‘Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho.'” More details here.

Based on what they have released, SpaceX has achieved something pretty incredible for its first attempt, actually hitting the floating ship at landing. That the landing itself was not soft or gently is literally only a detail. They will have the opportunity on future launches to get it right.



  • mpthompson

    Congratulations SpaceX on what looks like another 100% successful mission. For the landing, getting to the platform is a victory in itself and we look forward to you sticking the landing on a future mission. Thank you for making even routine missions exciting again.

  • D K Rögnvald Williams

    Private space rocks! (No pun intended)

  • mpthompson

    Purely a guess on my part, but after reading the media descriptions of the landing, it sounds like the rocket simply ran out of fuel while attempting to orient itself with the platform and fell the last 20 feet or so. Really, really close. Just a few tweaks more.

    I feel like a kid again waiting for the next attempt. :-)

  • wodun

    That the stage didn’t destroy the barge on impact shows they were pretty close.

  • Edward

    It is good to know that the rocket can find the landing pad. That is one major hurdle.

    After landing on a stable pad on dry land, the Falcon’s avionics may have had a reaction a little like this pilot, landing on a pitching, rolling, bobbing platform at sea:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGA9T6xdGIs#t=20 (2 minutes)

    Although the barge was almost certainly more stable than the ship in the video, I suspect that the programming needs some modification to be a little more “brave” while setting down, if it hesitated until it ran out of fuel as mpthompson speculates, or to be a little more careful, if the platform bobbed upward to meet the descending rocket.

    I would be surprised if the barge didn’t already have some sort of terminal guidance that tries to predict the barge’s future orientation and motion, much like the guy with the paddles in the video.

    They may lose a couple more rockets over the side of the barge before they get it right, but that is the nature of development and test. They likely found a bunch of pitfalls and obstacles to overcome before the next try.

    It reminds me of carrier landings. Those airplanes hit the deck pretty hard. I hope that these Falcons can survive a rough landing, but we didn’t see any rough landings in the videos of the Grasshopper tests.

  • PeterF

    that chopper must have been bingo fuel. There are very few instances where a pilot will attempt a landing in these conditions or a captain will put his ship in jeopardy rather than tell the pilot to ditch and hope for rescue.

  • PeterF

    the narrative of the drive-bys is that the landing attempt was a “total” failure.

  • pzatchok

    If they continue with these ship landings they are gong to have to try something totally new on the rocket.

    Either a system for the rocket to self level itself after landing to account for and counter effect the roll and pitch of the ship or build a beck that does the same. A self leveling deck.

    Or they could go cheap and quick and since they can hit the target pretty well put the target just off the side of the ship and let the rocket soft land in the water. Possibly on a floating net of some kind. A sort of fishing net with a large floating ring. The rocket soft lands into the net and falls over in the water. The whole net and ring are then lifted onto the barge by crane.

    Instead of shutting off the engines and letting it fall into the water like before they could just leave the engines on slowly letting the rocket descend into the water until the engines go out on their own or the rocket is no longer vertical.

    The net system would only require a reprogramming of the rocket and the building of a crane and net.

  • bkivey

    That was . . . fantastically good for a pioneering effort. Everyone at Space-X must be walking on air. I especially like Mr. Musk’s tweet concerning the attempt “Will piece it together from telemetry and … actual pieces.” I don’t think it will be too long before there is only one piece to recover.

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