SpaceX suffers ‘bummer’ landing, first-stage booster crashes into ocean

Cesar Mills
December 6, 2018

On top of that, the mission was performed using one of SpaceX's used (sorry, "flight proven") rockets, and its subsequent landing made it the first rocket to be launched and landed three times. The stage, he noted, continued to work even after tipping over into the water, going through a standard post-landing safing sequence and transmitting data. After more than two dozen successful rocket landings, SpaceX's most recent attempt resulted in a splashdown, though the rocket remained intact and was retrieved by the company.

The SpaceX booster rocket missed its landing zone on the ground, however, and fell into the sea, just offshore. The first-stage rockets have a 84 percent recovery rate, according to the company. It pops out its four landing legs, rockets toward the ocean's surface, plunges in, then tips over like a felled tree. It should reach the space station at the weekend. Although it is nearly without a doubt too early to actually know if the booster is in good enough condition to ever fly again, Musk seemed to directly suggest that it could eventually relaunch in support of an "internal SpaceX mission", basically either Starlink or tech development.

As Monday's launch of the CRS-16 mission showed, not deploying a grid fin in time can put the rocket into a tailspin, preventing it from steering toward a landing site. At that time, 4,000 pounds of returning cargo will make its way back down to the Pacific Ocean just off the coast from Baja, California. "Given this event, we will likely add a backup pump & lines". Koenigsmann said the flight termination system is turned off when the booster no longer poses a threat to the public. Only reigniting the booster's engines for a precise landing burn would have pulled it off that trajectory and toward the ground pad.

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Wednesday's Falcon rocket was brand new, while the Dragon cargo carrier was recycled by SpaceX. Remarkably, it seems SpaceX may still be able to recover the rocket. "It knows where buildings are, so it's pretty smart in that aspect", he said of the landing system on the booster.

Meanwhile, the Dragon spacecraft continues on its way to the space station, carrying fresh mouse food; new science and engineering experiments; and plenty of other goodies.

The mission is SpaceX's 16th for NASA, as part of a long-term contract to ferry supplies to space.

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