back to article SpaceX drone hovership ROCKET LANDER BURN: Musk to try again

SpaceX boss Elon Musk says his boffins have worked out what caused his company's Falcon 9 rocket to miss its floating landing pad – and that a solution has already been decided. The top half of the multistage rocket successfully delivered its cargo pod of supplies to the International Space Station on Monday after the bottom …

  1. Mark 85 Silver badge
    Pint

    Ran out of hydraulic fluid?

    I'm thinking there's a pressure tank and the fluid is dumped over the side after it does it's job? I'm surprised they're not using a pump to re-circulate the fluid but would add weight and complexity.

    Still they should have one for figuring it out and I'll be keeping my fingers crossed the next launch has a good landing in it's future.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Ran out of hydraulic fluid?

      Indeed:

      Hydraulics are usually closed, but that adds mass vs short acting open systems. F9 fins only work for 4 mins. We were ~10% off.

      https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/554023312033341440

      1. Wzrd1

        Re: Ran out of hydraulic fluid?

        A closed system isn't that much more massive. One only keeps a closed loop, so it's a bit more tubing.

        1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

          Re: Ran out of hydraulic fluid?

          Hydraulic fluid leaking all over a flaming big rocket?

          Sounds like a prelude to Great Balls of Fire...

        2. Dale 3

          Re: Ran out of hydraulic fluid?

          "A closed system isn't that much more massive."

          And yet, the billionaire aeronautical engineer and Chief Designer who has just successfully launched his own rocket into space, says that it is.

          1. Tom 13

            Re: says that it is.

            How massive something is depends on who you ask. For example, a trucker wouldn't think anything of an extra 10Kg load unless he was already riding his limits, a submarine engineer would give it a few minutes though and probably be more concerned about what the actual 10Kg of material was, but a rocket scientist will think long and hard about whether or not it is needed, even if its fuel.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ran out of hydraulic fluid?

          Ah, no its not quite that simple. You see there are not that many ways to power the hydraulic system on a rocket, most rockets don't have a pump to run the hydraulic system, they just have a fluid tank and a gas tank that pressurizes it. With a system like that you can't really have a closed loop, its not a matter of just add tubing. Russians have a system where fuel straight from turbopump is used as hydraulic fluid, that way they cant run out as far as there is any fuel left, and if there is no fuel left it doesn't matter anyway if you have hydraulics or not. But the problem there is that you only have hydraulic pressure when the rocket motor is actually firing, kind of a problem for rocket like Falcon where main engine is shut off and reignited later.

  2. Vulch

    Hmmm...

    Wonder if it caught a landing leg on one of the containers at that corner and blow-torched the surrounding area with the engine as it tipped? That could lead to the pieces lying where they are on the deck.

  3. Magani
    Black Helicopters

    Too dark?

    "Sadly, we’ll never get to see how the landing went, since it was apparently too dark and foggy for SpaceX to get decent video."

    'Foggy' I can understand as we've yet to control the weather, but 'dark'? It happens for roughly half of every 24hr period and there are these wonderful inventions called 'lights'.

    My conspiracy detector is working overtime here.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Too dark?

      @Magani

      The primary goal for the mission was to get supplies to the ISS. To do this means launching in a specific window. The controlled landing was just a secondary experiment.

      The originally scheduled launch window would have had the landing happen during the day, but that launch was scrubbed. This launch window meant the experimental landing had to happen at night.

      No conspiracy required.

    2. James Haley 2
      WTF?

      Re: Too dark?

      You'd think a Falcon engine hovering in for a landing might give off a little light...

      1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        Re: Too dark?

        Sure, but the fog might get in the way...

    3. Peter Ford

      Re: Too dark?

      Fog plus bright light usually equals worse visibility than you had without the lights

    4. Sweep

      Re: Too dark?

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/30847277

      1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        Re: Too dark?

        Or I suppose we could just be patient. We could do that.

  4. YARR

    God speed Falcon 9... but not when landing.

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Happy

      God speed-

      Is that faster than Ludicrous Speed?

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Re: God speed-

        No but it's about as fast as Dialectic Speed.

  5. ashdav
    Pint

    Boldly going etc....

    Give them some slack.

    No-one has tried this before.

    Kudos to Elon et al.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Boldly going etc....

      This is of course proof (for the conspiracists amongst us) that NASA didn't in fact land on the moon: if we can't do it now, of *course* we couldn't do it then...

      I'm curious to know how the lander knows where the barge is... or does it just have to hope that the barge is at the coordinates it's supposed to be at?

      Kudos indeed.

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Re: Boldly going etc....

        "how the lander knows where the barge is"

        It uses a barge poll?

        Sorry...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Boldly going etc....

        "how the lander knows where the barge is"

        Apple Maps maybe?

  6. ratfox Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    GoreSat

    How useful is this really?? Can even the simplest of critical systems be closed orderly in an hour?

    I'm guessing it's going to be a long time before such an alarm system is taken into account when designing new infrastructure…

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: GoreSat

      If it's that bad of a flare, orderly at this point might just have to go out the window to save the equipment and/or lives (aircraft?). An hour is better than the next to nothing time we have now.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: GoreSat

      "Can even the simplest of critical systems be closed orderly in an hour?"

      Yes, because the most vulnerable system of all is the power grid and if it's that big you can pull the plug on the long interconnectors across north america.

      european/asian interconnectors are shorter and not nearly as vunberable.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: if it's that big

        That's not what we learned when the telegraph systems were burned out in the 19th century.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: GoreSat

      With even a few minutes warning I can take precautions to protect some survival oriented electronics here. I've been thinking on the problem for decades. I just don't rabidly express it to all and sundry.

  7. Bruce Hoult

    not sure it'll be tried on the next launch

    Have SpaceX actually said they'll attempt a landing with the Deep Space Climate Observatory launch?

    A landing attempt means keeping fuel in reserve, and not using it for the primary mission, which subtracts from the available launch performance.

    Geosynchronous or interplanetary launches normally require the full Falcon 9 performance capability.

    ISS and other low earth orbit launches don't require maximum performance, and that's when they've been trying the flyback experiments.

    1. Snowman

      Re: not sure it'll be tried on the next launch

      "Have SpaceX actually said they'll attempt a landing with the Deep"

      He did say for an attempt next month, so it will be soon in any case, there is a comm satt launch then.

      Though given this satellite was created before the Falcon 9 was designed there is the possibility that it was planned for a smaller rocket that SpaceX was able to underbid for the contract, since it was probably competing with ULA.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: not sure it'll be tried on the next launch

      >Geosynchronous or interplanetary launches normally require the full Falcon 9 performance capability.

      I'd be surprised if the falcon 9 can make it to L1 on its own regardless, so I'd assume the DSCOVR is in possession of its own propulsion for the rest of the journey (and since the launch isn't particularly important it really is a perfect opportunity to test revisions to the falcon platform).

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    "floating barge"

    I always find them preferable to the other kind of barge.

    1. Wzrd1

      Re: "floating barge"

      I dunno, an ocean bottom barge is pretty useful - for fouling ancor lines.

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: "floating barge"

      I suppose it distinguishes it from something like an oil rig which floats into position, and then sinks until the legs are on the sea floor.

      I'm surprised that Musk doesn't have one already to be honest, a converted oil rig is much more Bond villain than a barge.

      (and I imagine something bigger and more stable would make a better landing pad)

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Happy

        Re: "floating barge"

        If you're going to do vertical landing of rocket stages, there's only one acceptable place to land them, and that's in the crater of an extinct volcano. I just don't know what the man's thinking!

      2. Gordon 10 Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: "floating barge"

        afaik some of the more mobile Oil rigs just have big tanks in the "feet" that are flooded to provide stability, with only some tethers/anchors actually going down to the seabed.

        One of them might be a good contender for the HMS Muskpad. although I would guess they cost a couple of orders of magnitude more than a barge with a flat deck and some station keeping thrusters.

        Which may be valid if they are ultimately shooting for a pad based on land.

        1. Tom 13

          Re: "floating barge"

          I find the whole barge concept ludicrous. I get that it was the only way Musk could get permission, but it is still ludicrous.

          Since the final landing plan is for a niece flat piece of land, which is a heck of a lot less problematic than a barge, these attempts should also be on land. We're not actually worried about it blowing up in flight, only the actual landing. So a niece piece of desert, like say where we landed the shuttles, seem far more appropriate.

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: "floating barge"

            One problem is that SpaceX have got launch facilities at Kennedy Space Centre, so they're a bit lacking in huge, flat expanses of desert to bring the rockets down in. If the worst comes to the worst and they can't land on the barge, I'm sure that won't be a problem. So long as they can prove that they can hover over a defined space with a very high degree of accuracy, they can always leave the difficult landing bit until the FAA certify them to attempt it on dry land.

          2. Dan Paul

            Re: "floating barge" @Tom 13

            Tom,

            No one else has been successful in the unmanned, automated landing and recovery of the first stage of a rocket. Even the Lunar Excursion Module was completely manned and autopilot was overridden and a manual descent was undertaken on the first landing.

            The very reason SpaceX tried this landing on a barge is due to the danger of such a landing for the first time out of the box.

            Even a desert landing requires a fly over of inhabited land, something that SpaceX was CLEARLY trying to avoid here.

            The shuttle landings were ALL at an airfield runway, whether in Florida or elsewhere and were mostly piloted. Only the XB-37 is unmanned. All were lifting bodies and they "flew", not "descended".

            The Dragon 9 first stage vertical descent is unprecidented, thus the anticipation of a "50/50" landing. I would say it would be "ludicrous" to use anything else than a floating landing platform.

            The mere fact that they were this close is nothing short of brilliant.

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