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Falcon 9R destroyed during failed test flight

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.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • 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.

  • Edward


    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).

    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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