back to article Falcon 9 gets its feet wet as SpaceX notch up two more launch successes

SpaceX demonstrated that it can indeed walk on water last night, but only briefly, in this week’s space round-up. Falcon 9 makes an unscheduled splash down As if to prove that landing a spent booster fiery end down time and time again is actually pretty tricky, SpaceX lost one of its new block 5 stages off the coast of Florida …

Andy Mac

I don’t carry a strong opinion about His Muskiness or SpaceX, but it sounds like the safety precautions put in place worked perfectly and ensured the malfunctioning stage landed at sea rather than crashing on the ground. Overall, not great, but chalk one up for safety backups.

John Robson
Silver badge

Although in this case it looks like it could possibly have landed safely on land... Not that you'd try it in this case, since a collision with the landing pad would be rather detrimental.

A perfect abort scenario... This is the reason we put launch sites on the coast...

I suppose I ought to say launch and landing sites now...

ArrZarr
Silver badge
Happy

We are moving towards a point where we can call them spaceports, which is pretty swish by anybody's money.

John Robson
Silver badge

Ok, it couldn’t complete it’s final translation manoeuvre, so couldn’t *get* to land... designed to fail safe... no way to land at LZ if it can’t get there.

Still a mighty impressive bit of control, given how much those fins normall contribute.

Beachrider

Did they recover the Ariane...

Just because it was so MUCH of the topic for SpaceX. Nothing on recovering Ariane...

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Did they recover the Ariane...

Well, to quote Angus Deayton back in the days when he chaired HIGNFY

"Last week ESA launched Ariane Cinq ... which then proceded to live up to its name ... and sank"

lglethal
Silver badge
Boffin

An optimistic cynics take

Sea water is amongst the more corrosive natural things you can end up dumping your metallic parts in. I guess a reapplication of whatever protective coating (probably Alodine or equivalent) might work although you probably need to chemically strip off the original damaged coating first, so i doubt its that easy or cheap to do.

But I would imagine catching the fairing before it hit the water would go some way to reducing the impact loading on the part. Impacts into water at high speed hurt quite a bit. Then again, if they think they can still use it even after one landing in water, then I imagine that they believe a net landing would increase the reusability. Sort of along the lines of if the Fairing can survive one landing in water and be reused, then it can survive 2 landing in the net and be reused twice for the same impact loads.

Just throwing ideas out there...

ArrZarr
Silver badge
Boffin

Re: An optimistic cynics take

At a guess, giving the fairings a saltwater bath and picking them up from a ship already in close vicinity isn't too bad as you can get them out of the ocean and take preventative measures (many paper towels) sharpish, Catching the fairing before its bath just prevents the paper towel bit.

To take the cue from XKCD though, we should probably call the fairing "the box that falls off to protect the bit that you want to go to space today"

Flocke Kroes
Silver badge

Re: An optimistic cynics take

The fairings are aluminium honeycomb surrounded by a carbon fibre composite. Inspection of the first fairings to be recovered from the sea showed that sea water had got between the carbon fibres. The design has changed to include some sort of waterproof coating.

Dragon capsules land in the sea and get re-used. One of them has been to the ISS 5 times.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: An optimistic cynics take

At a guess, giving the fairings a saltwater bath and picking them up from a ship already in close vicinity isn't too bad as you can get them out of the ocean and take preventative measures (many paper towels) sharpish, Catching the fairing before its bath just prevents the paper towel bit.

Or swap the landing barge for a cargo ship full of rice. That stuff's ace for drying out dunked iPhones so don't see any reason for it not working on a rocket

Gene Cash
Silver badge

Re: An optimistic cynics take

> Impacts into water at high speed hurt quite a bit.

Sure, but they're equipped with a good-size parachute these days, so it shouldn't be a high-speed impact.

phuzz
Silver badge

Re: An optimistic cynics take

To paraphrase lglethal: A fairing in the net is worth two in the sea.

A.P. Veening

Re: An optimistic cynics take

"cargo ship full of rice"

That stuff is very great for drying out all kinds of stuff. Unfortunately, it will leave the corrosive part (salt) exactly where it was and thereby exactly where you don't want it, at the previously wet thing you are trying to dry.

First order of business with these fairings after fishing them up from the sea is a complete and very thorough wash down with fresh water to get rid of the salt. As those fairings don't contain much in the way of electronics, air drying is good enough once the salt is gone.

steelpillow
Silver badge
Devil

If only...

...his Dot-Com Boomness's Autopilot-controlled cars "behaved exactly as designed in its abort mode."

#define INFINITY -1

Re: If only...

Sorry to spoil your day if you were going for downvotes with this. I am still learning. I will now repeat 100 times "A good commentard only upvotes comments about Tesla crashes on Tesla articles."

steelpillow
Silver badge

Re: If only...

Thanks. The parallel is still worth noting and it is hard to do so while being kind about [CENSORED].

Actually, I just say what I think and let the up/down votes look after themselves. They speak more to me about the psychology of commentards than about my posts.

ArrZarr
Silver badge
Devil

Re: If only...

I think you'll find that they work perfectly in abort mode. The difficulty is getting the cars to turn abort mode on automatically.

Zebo-the-Fat

Even when things go a bit wrong it's still impressive!

cray74
Silver badge
Headmaster

Gruesome Post-Mortem

While SpaceX is interested in the failed hydraulic pump on the grid fin, I would love to see what happened to the single engine that was running when the Falcon 9 stage dropped into the water. The thermal shock, hot corrosion, unplanned back pressure - that'd make for an interesting materials failure analysis.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Gruesome Post-Mortem

A few squirts of WD-40, bit of T-Cut....soon be good as new.

Alastair MacDiarmid

Re: Gruesome Post-Mortem

It's one of the reasons they re-designed the octoweb structure that mounts the engines to the stack. Easy swap out. I doubt they'll fly that engine again but it's not a massive big deal for them to bolt a new one on. But again, who knows, they seem to have a handle on some really hard problems, so maybe they have a solution for that one too.

I ain't Spartacus
Gold badge
Happy

Re: Gruesome Post-Mortem

A few squirts of WD-40, bit of T-Cut....soon be good as new.

You'll never make a rocket scientist! You forgot the gaffer tape!

This post has been deleted by its author

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Bowl of Rice?

Seriously, have you looked at that URL you pasted? Who in their right mind is going to click on it? Just hovering over it made me shiver...

Alan Brown
Silver badge

Re: Bowl of Rice?

"deionized water rinse,"

Even a relatively freshwater rinse will help a lot if you can get them out of the water and washed off quickly. it's the "you're soaking in it" factor that lets salt water permeate into the material.

cray74
Silver badge

Re: Bowl of Rice?

Seriously, have you looked at that URL you pasted?

Apparently not the way you meant. The chain was:

Google Image Search: Bowl of Rice SpaceX

Look for the amusing pic found on Facebook of a Falcon 9 in rice: no luck

Look for another pic of tech in rice: found many

Look for page not flagged by security: found some

Look for short-ish link that isn't 7 lines of text long: found several

Paste in to Register post with bits of code

Test link when Previewing message: opens without problem, pop-ups, or security warnings

Submit

rg287

It's interesting that Musk thinks they might be able to use the whole thing again (even at a lower level of confidence where they wouldn't risk a customer payload).

There were certain bits that would - without a doubt - have been recycled. The titanium grid fins are pretty much the most expensive individual components on the entire vehicle. A rinse down and recoat and they would have flown again. They are not thrown away lightly.

Everything else is a toss up. Electronics may well be shot (though it was still sending telemetry after splashdown, so some of it was dry). At least one (but probably three) of the engines will have not only been immersed but also suffered significant thermal shock on splashdown. It would be interesting to know what the prognosis is on the other 6. No doubt they're good - individually - for spares if nothing else.

Big John
Silver badge

Two splashdowns

> "Everything else is a toss up."

I'd be very surprised if the body of the rocket (basically big lightweight fuel tanks with perhaps a thin aluminum skin) would survive such strong sudden area loading from one side without major warping at the least.

BTW, in the video the rocket does an interesting thing just before splashdown. First it tilts a bit to acquire some side velocity, then swings to the opposite tilt just before entering the water. This has the effect of making the booster fall one way while pushing its tail thru the water the other way (slightly).

I guess it's to reduce the toppling speed, softening the blow from the water surface on the side of the rocket. Maybe this is why the whole thing is so intact, letting Musk muse about reusing it.

Marty McFly
Boffin

NASA has concerns over SpaceX culture??!?

Well, I guess they would know. Seems to be a recurring problem, and I am not sure they ever solved it.

2/21/67

4/13/70

1/28/86

2/1/03

Deltics
Holmes

Re: NASA has concerns over SpaceX culture??!?

And what sort of a record do we think SpaceX would have had in the 1960's (never mind that, even in their actual timeline) had they not had the benefit of learning from NASA before them (and in some cases NASA stepping in directly to correct some pretty basic blunders before they had a chance to embarrass the wunderkind).

"On the shoulders of giants" and all that.

Gene Cash
Silver badge

Re: NASA has concerns over SpaceX culture??!?

My beef with NASA being all hoity-toity is not only have they lost astronauts, but they've sat on their ass and not done any significant basic rocket research since the '70s WHICH IS THEIR JOB

They've talked about recovering boosters FOREVER and not done it. Hell, even the very first Redstones that launched Shepard, et al were supposed to be recovered by parachute, but NASA bottled out and put in 300lbs of ballast instead. And Gemini was supposed to be recovered by parasail, and they bottled out again.

Commercial crew is ready to go, except NASA can't get the paperwork together.

They're yelling at SpaceX to get off their lawn, these days.

ITnoob

Re: NASA has concerns over SpaceX culture??!?

Brutally honest and true.

Alan Brown
Silver badge

Re: NASA has concerns over SpaceX culture??!?

"And Gemini was supposed to be recovered by parasail, and they bottled out again"

Don't forget Dyna-soar and Sea Dragon.

cray74
Silver badge

Re: NASA has concerns over SpaceX culture??!?

but they've sat on their ass and not done any significant basic rocket research since the '70s WHICH IS THEIR JOB

What do you define as "significant basic rocket research?"

NASA has been steadily testing rocket engines, propellants, and structures since the 1970s. Aerospikes, composites, exotic propellants, new engine cycles - they all get tested at NASA. And it hasn't ignored the atmospheric side, either. Whether it's looking into quiet supersonic transport or more efficient jet engines, aircraft and engine makers benefit strongly from NASA's ongoing research.

But then there's that valley of death in implementation. A new rocket is billions of dollars of investment, so how is NASA supposed to apply some great innovation if the commercial world doesn't want to spend $5 billion on a new model rocket and the White House or Capital Hill deletes the moon/Mars/space base program that needed the rocket?

They've talked about recovering boosters FOREVER and not done it.

NASA recovered very large boosters over 130 times. I work with some of the team members that cleaned up and prepped those recovered boosters for the next launch. If you want NASA to build additional recoverable boosters of some new form, then I'd suggest:

1) Get Congress to secure several billion in funding

2) Get a commercial partner to build the boosters, because NASA never had a significant rocket factory

3) Get Congress to not cancel the years-long contract after the next election

All NASA can do in such an organization is lobby, plead, and argue for money. It doesn't set the federal budget that decides how it can innovate.

And Gemini was supposed to be recovered by parasail, and they bottled out again.

The short version is that Gemini's Rogallo wing development was slower than the rest of the program. They had a spaceship ready to fly while the Rogallo wing was still failing. Rather than let that hold up the program, NASA "got'er done" with plan B: parachutes.

The longer version is that while the Gemini capsule developed rapidly the Rogallo test vehicle ("Parasev") handled poorly in the air, crashed, and had a steep learning curve. (Gemini wasn't using proven commercial Rogallo hang glider technology. Instead, it was developing the technology that would lead to Rogallo wings in hang gliding use.) And just as the Parasev started working well, the Rogallo wing-equipped Gemini capsules were running into problems. Wind tunnel tests showed the capsules' wing liked to disintegrate in adverse landing conditions. (Solution: only land in nice weather.) Beyond the wind tunnel tests, there were problems with deploying the wing in real world conditions, which led to destruction of test vehicles.

Instead of spending another couple of years ironing out the Rogallo wing, NASA launched the Gemini capsule with parachutes and the USAF looked into "Winged Gemini." It was a get'er done attitude that didn't let technological setbacks or paperwork hold up the program. Speaking of which...

Commercial crew is ready to go, except NASA can't get the paperwork together.

NASA has the blood of 17 astronauts on its hands from other times when it decided to ignore the paperwork and just go ahead with the test or launch. Apollo 1: rushed too fast, numerous deficiencies in blueprints, testing and safety, three dead astronauts. Challenger: ignored the flight data that said the SRBs had a leakage problem and ignored the spaceship's manufacturer's paperwork that said, "Shuttles are not meant to launch in this weather," seven dead astronauts. Columbia: smoothed over safety briefings identifying risks in heat shield damage, seven dead astronauts.

Now, NASA is responsible for vetting US-built spacecraft as safe for human flight. It probably is going to go a bit slowly.

Deltics
Joke

> Falcon fairing halves missed the net, but touched down softly

> in the water. Mr Steven is picking them up.

He may not be much cop at a game of catch but it's good to know that the Death Star's Head of Catering is not above retrieving his own dropsies. Just a shame that this one is wet. And this one is wet. And this one is wet! And this one is wet! And this... What?! Did you dry these in a f*****g rain forest ?

Michael Hoffmann

Thanks...

Coffee all over my screen. And now I have to go watch the lego version again.

Big John
Silver badge

Better when wet

I say, one does get better close-up video of the crash when the cameras aren't suffering RUD.

ratfox
Silver badge

How do you launch 64 satellites from a single rocket?

Do they go one by one? Is there an automated robotic arm to take them out, so they can fire themselves in the right orbit? How much time does the process take?

I hoped there would be a video somewhere, but I can only find rockets taking off.

Vulch

Re: How do you launch 64 satellites from a single rocket?

It was something like four slightly larger satellites deployed from the second stage, then three dispensers with a varying number on each separated. The three dispensers then released thier satellites over the next half hour or so. Because of the orbit the various separations were out of range of ground stations so no video.

Duncan Macdonald
Silver badge

Re: How do you launch 64 satellites from a single rocket?

Spring loaded - the satellites are loaded into spring loaded boxes and the door on the end is opened.

The standard CubeSat deployment box can handle satellites that are 1U (10x10x10cm) 2U(20x10x10cm) or 3U (30x10x10cm). One deployment box can handle 3U in total (one 3U or 1 1U and 1 2U or 3 1U). Multiple deployment boxes can be carried to allow for deployment of multiple satellites. Unlike the deployment mechanisms for bigger (and much more expensive) satellites, these simple deployment boxes usually leave the CubeSats tumbling after release.

(CubeSats are limited to 1.33kg/2.66kg/4kg for 1U/2U/3U sizes)

Big John
Silver badge

Re: How do you launch 64 satellites from a single rocket?

They are cubesats and are deployed via simple ejection.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQy9EwMrILI

Rich 10

Why would NASA have concerns over a failed return booster? They just care that the mission was successful - SpaceX is the one who cares as they are trying to reuse as many of these boosters as they can - and the landings of the boosters are still considered experimental. A controlled landing into water for a giant empty sealed tube that floats and can be retrieved for analysis is not a really bad outcome, just not the one they wanted. This is nothing like a critical failure during launch, not even close.

Gene Cash
Silver badge

Not a record number of cubesats

At least El Reg takes care to specify that it wasn't a world record number of objects launched, as India dropped off 104 satellites from a PSLV XL in February last year.

I know I should be used to incompetent Americans by now, but it still gets my knickers in a twist when I see CNN, Fox, NBC, etc with "SpaceX launches record number of satellites" headlines.

John Robson
Silver badge

Re: Not a record number of cubesats

It is a record - for them... In the same way I can set a british record whilst still having had people from other countries do better.

F111F
Pint

"...spectacularly dismantle..."

OK...that's even better than RUD...

JJKing
Facepalm

Oh dear.

You'll never make a rocket scientist! You forgot the gaffer tape!

Sorry Angus but I did bring the paperclips.

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