SpaceX is considering a ground landing for its next first stage return attempt

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right or below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

The competition heats up: After its second attempt this week to land its first stage on a barge in the Atlantic, SpaceX is now considering landing their next attempt on the ground.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. The reason they have been landing over the ocean in these initial tests was for safety. The last two landings however had demonstrated that they can reliably bring that first stage back accurately and precisely. Since they have the ability to destroy the stage should it go off course, it seems reasonable to shift to land now and simplify their challenge.



  • PeterF

    It was daily obvious with the last attempt that had the target been larger, the booster would have been able make a vertical landing. The last second correction caused the crash.

  • I’d think they’d like to bring the first, and eventually second, stages back to the launch facility to reduce costs

  • BSJ

    I’ve believed landing on a moving/floating platform wouldn’t work because there would be no way to dampen out ALL motion solely caused by wave action.

    I just had a thought on another force that would cause the barge to move. The trust coming from the rocket itself would impart another changing axis of motion that the barge’s thrusters would have to try to deal with.

    There’s just no way the thrusters could move enough water fast enough to keep the barge dead level long enough for all four landing legs to touch the deck at exactly the same moment…

    In the video shot from the barge, you can see at least one of the legs failed. I bet they weren’t designed to be strong enough to bear the weight of the entire rocket on just one leg.

  • Matt in AZ

    It may turn out Blue Origin’s patent fight for barge landings will be rather moot.

  • Paul Hosea

    Why would she say they’d be more hesitant to blow up a rocket with a payload still aboard? She might get some flack for this one. Spacex, like all western and Russian providers, has range safety officers that work independently from the launch team. They are trained to blow the thing up if its flight path looks threatening in any way. Costs don’t factor into it, because the mission is lost anyway if the flight path changes anywhere near that much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *