back to article KABOOM! Billionaire fingers dud valve in ROCKET WIBBLE PRANG BLAST

Billionaire biz baron Elon Musk has revealed some detail on why his firm SpaceX's scheme to bring back a first stage booster rocket in one piece just failed on the most recent attempt. The Register reported on the drama as it unfolded on Tuesday. Once again, Falcon 9 successfully launched the capsule payload to 'nauts on the …

  1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I don't think this is the spirit of Tintin's gaily colored moon rocket

    Shit's coming down FAST in the footage. And the barge is damn small...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I don't think this is the spirit of Tintin's gaily colored moon rocket

      Shit's coming down FAST in the footage. And the barge is damn small...

      Sure, but they hit that rather small spot in a large ocean - again - so targeting works.

      That explanation makes sense, a sluggish valve explains why the rocket seemed to overcorrect on the footage when trying to stabilise.

    2. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: I don't think this is the spirit of Tintin's gaily colored moon rocket

      It has to come down fast because it can't hover.

      The throttle only goes as low as ~1.8G, so the least it can do is roughly maximum braking of a high-performance car. (0.8G)

      Lower throttle isn't possible because turbopumps don't do slow, among other things.

      According to Scott Manley, it's trying to drive at a brick wall at 120mph, then slam on the brakes and come to a halt just touching the wall.

      This time it slammed on the brakes ever so slightly too late.

      Next time...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I don't think this is the spirit of Tintin's gaily colored moon rocket

      I read all 25 replies that were up when I posted. Lots of crazy suggestions about how to improve it but no-one sees to have suggested the most obvious...? Make the legs of the rocket wider. Yeah I'm sure it'll add weight but can't see how it would be too much and surely the current setup means the likelihood of topple-over is high. Even a wave could topple an upright and stationary rocket. wider legs = more stable once down. Am I missing something

      1. Anonymous Blowhard

        Re: I don't think this is the spirit of Tintin's gaily colored moon rocket

        Maybe use a variant of the Royal Navy's solution for helicopters.

        Add a "harpoon" to each foot and land on a metal grid; the harpoons would require a bit of lateral "float" so they don't prevent the feet from touching down and once down the harpoons would keep the rocket from tipping over. Even a single harpoon, deployed from the base of the rocket, could do the job, maybe with a mechanism to take up slack on touchdown.

        http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2014/09/motion-compensated-helicopter-decks/

  2. b166er

    What strikes me about that successful hover and land footage, is that I'm so used to seeing scenes like that in CGI, that that footage doesn't look real!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Now put on your Michael Bay specs...

      "Faster, godammit! What, call that a fireball!? And how long was that cut, what like 8, 9 seconds? Well get to the editing desk, we'll cut away to the chick three times, last time running in slowmo with the explosions. Yeah, there's a chick. Yeah, explosions plural, one per rocket. Oh you ARE kiddin' me now, just one rocket?

    2. DropBear Silver badge
      Happy

      In that case, I'll be needing the comprehensive list of whatever you're watching. I'm starved of some proper tail-landing rocketry-wielding gung-ho sci-fi big time here!

  3. Dharma

    This guy is a winner, even if he has too much money. Let's finally get back to taking risks again.

    1. bloji

      Too much money

      What? He has too much money? He earned that money. If he didn't have that money there would be no reusable space program, just garbage government programs.

      "Let's finally get back to taking risks again."

      Without any money to do it with right?

      Note this guy risked his whole fortune on this and you think he has too much money? You'd rather the government spent it all on welfare I suppose.

    2. JLV Silver badge

      >he has too much money

      It's his money. He earned it.

      As far I can see, he has managed to start up a quite successful private sector launch biz, that is lowering cost to orbit, by a lot.

      Now he's managing to piggyback experiments to save even more money by salvaging the first stage, but on the back of his regular launches. Icing on the cake, so to speak. Failure? No big deal. Success? Potentially, big deal.

      Risk taking? It's not just about risks, it's about payoffs as well. Our governments regularly take big risks with our money. The F35 comes to mind.

      Now, I realize it is fashionable to bitch about people with $$$, but if there were more Bill & Melinda Gates foundations & more more Musks, we would be doing better for it. Even, if for any one of those, we get 50x Target Canada CEOs driving their their shareholders' business into the ground and getting massive bonuses along the way.

      Rich man's toy? One wishes there were more like him.

      p.s. my engineering suggestion? have a cat's cradle/spider web gantry of collapsible cables on the landing area and aim for it. make it so the rocket falls through it on landing but is kept upright afterwards.

    3. jeoten

      You are spot on right. Musk is taking risks (measured of course), but risks for sure. It's exciting to finally see someone who puts is money, time and resources on the future, making things happen, thinking outside the box and more. I remember as a 10 year old, my heart would pound on every Apollo launch. I feel that again with Musk and SpaceX and Tesla. Old political and business philosophies are being refreshed, and it's about time. Go SpaceX!

  4. qantumpowa

    hes got money and he is going to spend it

    Some other dude compared his feat into balancing a long broom handle on a finger ..and it sound about right...we all know its possible, but not easy sometimes. with predictability of the winds, and other variables, I think its still very good that its lands on the barge :D..

    So, moving forward ...a para chute holding down the descent would decrease the whole velocity deal a lot, and provide more time for control.

    small waves in the wrong direction will make it fall with the current setup. those valves are becoming very expensive ...

    they definitely edited the video because they don't want our help :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: hes got money and he is going to spend it

      If it was coming down on land, then they could concentrate on killing the lateral velocity and mostly ignore the exact placement. Sure would be a lot simpler with a great big field as a target.

      1. bhound562

        Re: hes got money and he is going to spend it

        That is not going to happen (land return) until and unless they show consistent success bringing it in at sea. The government isn't going to allow an unproven landing of a fueled rocket on land without that success record. By the way, that last attempt wouldn't have been successful on land, either.

        1. cray74

          Re: hes got money and he is going to spend it

          "The government isn't going to allow an unproven landing of a fueled rocket on land without that success record."

          What success record did the Grasshopper and DC-X have when they started flying?

          1. Vulch

            Re: hes got money and he is going to spend it

            What success record did the Grasshopper and DC-X have when they started flying?

            None. Which is why when they started flying they did so in the middle of big empty spaces with insufficient fuel or velocity to reach anywhere breakable. There's quite a bit of expensive and fragile kit hanging around the Cape that you don't want to land on top of...

            1. cray74

              Re: hes got money and he is going to spend it

              "There's quite a bit of expensive and fragile kit hanging around the Cape that you don't want to land on top of.."

              "The remotest possibility of dropping on on a house (or an offshore boat) will scupper any permission to bring 'em onshore."

              I know, my house is in the vicinity. My phone has been buzzed by the county government telling me to stay indoors while the clouds of toxic propellant from failed Delta II and Titan IV launches went past. The unpowered shuttle and its tanks of toxic OMS/RCS propellants have rattled my window with sonic booms during landing approaches several times. (I kept thinking it was neighbor kids kicking my garage door, which shows how slow I learn.)

              Fortunately, to deal with problems of wayward rockets there are range safety devices. That's how Cape Canaveral has remained a test site for so long in a populated area: when rockets misbehave they get deliberately blown up before they do more than wreck cars in the Cape's parking lot. A wayward Falcon returning from over the Atlantic presents an unusually long approach compared to launches from the Cape, and thus provides a lot of time to hit the Big Red Button if the Falcon's not headed in the correct direction.

              The launch pads and landing strips of Cape Canaveral have been handling exploding rockets for decades. If a floating barge can handle them, so can many square kilometers of concrete-and-steel-and-swamp landing sites. The record for spaceflight in Brevard remains much better than local drivers and airplane pilots.

              1. bhound562

                Re: hes got money and he is going to spend it

                Cray74 and others: You guys don't get it. The "Range" people will not approve a trajectory that launches over land or returns over land (with fuel on board). That represents an unacceptable hazard to the public. You can't blow something up, directed or by accident, and have debris coming down with an uncertain destination. There is no practical way to do this.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: hes got money and he is going to spend it

            "What success record did the Grasshopper and DC-X have when they started flying?"

            There isn't a lot of human habitation around White Sands Missile Range, unlike kennedy Space Centre.

            SpaceX need to prove they can at least hit the barge every time, even if they don't recover the rockets. The remotest possibility of dropping on on a house (or an offshore boat) will scupper any permission to bring 'em onshore.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: hes got money and he is going to spend it

              Just so it's clear, the booster returns the surface about 200 miles from the launch point, not at the launch point itself. That would be perfect for Vandenburg on the west coast with all that desert inland to the east, but then they would have to launch over substantial populations and any little mishaps on the way up would risk visiting fiery death to civilians on the ground.

              Not sure where they could safely launch and come down on land, to be honest. Probably not in the US.

              1. Mark 85 Silver badge

                Re: hes got money and he is going to spend it

                I saw one "plan" (youtube) where the booster would separate, flip and fire the engine(s) for a retro burn. They just have to get it going fast enough to start dropping and heading back the way they came. As the earth rotates (600 mph I believe at the Cape), it'll shorten the distance by some miles, not many, but it makes it closer). After retro, the thing flips again on the way down to touchdown at point of launch. Rather complex if you ask me, but I'm not a rocket scientist.

              2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

                Re: hes got money and he is going to spend it

                Just so it's clear, the booster returns the surface about 200 miles from the launch point, not at the launch point itself.

                You missed one - transporting the rocket back 200 miles on land is a major logistical exercise. Transporting it on a barge at sea is a piece of cake.

              3. Tim Brummer

                Re: hes got money and he is going to spend it

                Vandenberg launches go south over the ocean. There are some Navy owned islands to the south the booster could land on. As it happens they are just offshore from the SpaceX factory in Hawthore.

                You are correct about going East from VAFB it will never happen, millions of people live under that flightpath.

              4. Tom 13

                Re: Not sure where they could safely launch and come down on land

                Launch from Kennedy, land at White Sands. Yes, you still have to tow the equipment afterward, but only during development and test. Once the system is proven you consolidate to the Cape.

                1. bhound562

                  Re: Not sure where they could safely launch and come down on land

                  Never happen over land.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: hes got money and he is going to spend it

          > By the way, that last attempt wouldn't have been successful on land, either.

          What makes you so sure? The big hurdles are: near-zero vertical and horizontal speed during touchdown on a very small target. Remove one of those difficulties and perhaps the landing might have succeeded.

          1. Steve Evans

            Re: hes got money and he is going to spend it

            Whilst "hitting" land is a much bigger target, you still require near zero vertical and horizontal speed at touchdown. Without near zero horizontal, the moment the base touches the ground and gains zero horizontal, it'll tip over...

            ... Unless you mount shopping trolley wheels on the base of the fins...

            Hmmm....

        3. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: hes got money and he is going to spend it

          The government isn't going to allow an unproven landing of a fueled rocket on land without that success record.

          SpaceX have done it on land already, as can be seen in the article footage link (the cow-scaring video clip).

          Quite impressive and getting closer now, amazing what they have managed to achieve. I can't help thinking, though, that the real solution is something other than chucking tons of hot gas out of the bottom to force Newton's third law.

    2. Rol Silver badge

      Re: hes got money and he is going to spend it

      Mmm...perhaps, increasing the surface area of the whole vehicle by deploying a parachute might be counter-productive as not only would the wind be playing greater havoc with the steering, but the hot exhaust gases would undoubtedly interact with the 'chute in so many unpredictable ways that the whole system would be nothing short of chaos

      The obvious answer is to present the suppliers of the sub standard valves with the repair bill and push on, knowing that, that's one set of components that will never, ever fail again.

      Strange how filthy lucre manages to spur businesses on to greater heights, when traits like, pride and professionalism have clearly failed to inspire.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Landed Fine"

    Not sure I would want to ride in any kind of space vehicle made by a company that considers a catastrophic explosion and total vehicle loss as 'landing fine'.

    How is it possible that in the year 2015 we are actually worse at orbital transport than we were in the 1960's?

    Also, it's not an 'autonomous spaceport droneship'- if it needs a tugboat to bring the charred remains back to port it's called a 'barge'.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: "Landed Fine"

      How is it possible that in the year 2015 we are actually worse at orbital transport than we were in the 1960's?

      Idiot. Learn to distinguish: Going UP and Coming DOWN.

    2. ilmari

      Re: "Landed Fine"

      In the 60s, the rockets fell/tumbled out of control and crashed into the ocean each and every time, well, except for the times they blew up on the pad. This still happens today, and rocket debris washes up on shores in south america. SpaceX is doing something new trying to do a powered softlanding.

    3. Anonymous John

      Re: "Landed Fine"

      We're talking about unmanned first stages here, all of which are lost, almost all by dropping into the ocean. SpaceX s trying to reuse them and the 'explosions are only due to failed attempts to do so on a solid object.

  6. jwillis84

    Slow throttle or wonky Ocean Sensor

    I wonder if the difference is landing over open Sea as opposed to Land.

    Not only are electrical potentials and currents really different, but reflectivity off the surface is different and even level surfaces can vary quite a bit from the horizon and be hard to distinguish or compensate for.. perhaps the Throttle performed as designed.. but the feedback system was tricked by the vastly different environment.

    As far as I know Google Maps could steer you down a few thousand fathoms before putting you back on track.

    They need to invent a pulse modulated "phased array" electromagnetic Tractor Beam. A single solenoid disperses broadly. But if they have an array of them they can "Beam Steer" and grasp a target. With a phase "enhancer" or a solenoid onboard, they could concentrate it and end up with a nice periodic impulse. Then they could use that to gently tug or push it around off deck to correct.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Slow throttle or wonky Ocean Sensor

      Can't speak to the Tractor Beam, but doing this at sea is far more ideal than on land. The ocean acts as a moderator for variations in atmospheric conditions especially as compared to land. I've got 250,000 at sea miles to anecdotally back that up.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: The ocean acts as a moderator for variations in atmospheric conditions

        Yes, but except for a few seconds here and there every couple of decades, land doesn't go up and down in swells. Even that tends to be geographically concentrated, so not a real risk when trying to land.

  7. Bod

    Parachutes

    I still don't get why they're bothering with a costly system with loads of fuel to land it rather than use parachutes, inflatables and recover. Or at least as suggested above, parachute to slow and then rockets enough to avoid it slamming down hard, though I'd still go for landing in water rather than explode crashing into a deck.

    1. Terje

      Re: Parachutes

      If you deploy a whopping big parachute the only thing you can be reasonably sure about is that you won't land anywhere near where you want to. The point is that rockets are rather large hard to transport so as soon as you land somewhere else then your designated landing spot you will be faced with the problem of how to explain the new garden decorations to some unsuspecting pensioner.

      1. Oodles of Noodles

        Re: Parachutes

        ' how to explain the new garden decorations to some unsuspecting pensioner '

        I nearly cried laughing at that!

    2. xenny

      Re: Parachutes

      BTDT. They tried parachutes with the Falcon 1. They presumably decided they prefer powered landings, possibly for the potentially better accuracy.

      As an aside, note that thrust to weight in this process is greater than 1. The rocket never hovers, but must come to a halt at the bottom of decent as it touches the pad for everything to succeed.

    3. Vulch

      Re: Parachutes

      If you dip the whole thing in salt water then you're committed to stripping the whole stage to components and rebuilding from scratch. Not exactly the route to cheap reusability.

  8. bhound562

    SpaceX Booster Recovery Saga

    This booster recovery process that SpaceX is attempting is not close to being successful. And remember, in order for SpaceX to be profitable, they need to do it consistently. A far more practical way to reduce launch costs is being developed by ULA. Since 65% of the cost of a booster is its engines, they are looking to recover the booster engine module via parachute and helicopter capture.

    http://spaceflightnow.com/2015/04/13/photos-ula-vulcan-rocket-revealed/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: SpaceX Booster Recovery Saga

      > ..in order for SpaceX to be profitable, they need to do it consistently.

      No, they only need to recover some of the boosters, not all of them. Each booster they save has a big impact on mission profitability. And I'd guess the launches will be making a little profit even with NO recovered boosters.

    2. Ian Easson

      Re: SpaceX Booster Recovery Saga

      SpaceX is profitable, and has been for several years now.

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Alert

        Re: SpaceX Booster Recovery Saga

        Actually SpaceX only became profitable this month, but your point still stands.

        The point of re-using the first stage is that they can reduce how much they charge for a launch whilst still making money.

      2. bhound562

        Re: SpaceX Booster Recovery Saga

        Now, how do you know that they are profitable? Privately held company - closed books.

    3. bloji

      Re: SpaceX Booster Recovery Saga

      ULA wasn't trying to do crap in the reusable rockets department until Spacex started testing grasshopper.

      In fact their CEO, Bruno, said:

      "Bruno said firing engines to control a rocket's flight back to Earth, as SpaceX is now trying to do with its Falcon 9 booster, wastes fuel that could help deliver payloads to orbit.

      "That's how rocket engineers see the world," he said. "That's all energy you could have used to put a bigger payload in the same orbit, or the same payload further up.""

    4. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: SpaceX Booster Recovery Saga

      @Bhound562

      And remind me how many REAL LIFE tests ULA have performed with this Engine-Helicopter capture schizzle?

      Whats that? Vulcan is vapourware produced by a bunch whose number is increasing looking like its up?

      Feel free to post back when Vulcan is actually flying. (2019 if it doesn't slip).

  9. Zack Mollusc

    The rocket overcorrected and didn't have time to recover. The answer is simple. Relocate the launch facility such that the recovery barge is parked in the Dead Sea. This will give the rocket an extra 400 metres to prepare for landing. Why hasn't that retard Musk thought of this?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Israel will see an incoming rocket, the pavlovian reflex regarding Iran will kick in and they will launch their 200-odd nuclear shit. That's not a formula for success.

    2. Martin Budden

      @Zack Mollusc

      You forgot the Joke Alert! icon.

  10. sciguybm

    Hey Elon

    Just because you're a rich f*** doesn't mean you can shower the oceans with your toxic rocket crap. I and my family eat the products coming from those oceans and we don't want rocket fuel, radioactive and toxic compounds in them.... QUIT. YOU HAVE NO RIGHT to foul our planet just because you say so.

    1. My-Handle

      Re: Hey Elon

      Er, yeah. About that. Elon Musk is pretty much the only rocket operator actively working towards NOT doing that. Every other rocket operator dumps spent stages in the ocean (or whatever remains of said stages after they burn up on re-entry). Also, I don't believe there is any radioactive material present in any rocket at all (with the possible exception of military payloads or interplanetary probes, neither of which regularly land in oceans).

      I swore to myself I'd never rise to troll bait. I feel somehow disappointed that I've broken that oath and validated your existence by acknowledging your comment.

      1. JLV Silver badge

        Re: Hey Elon

        it's only troll bait if you know you're being stupid ;) if you're not aware of that fact, you're not a troll, you're just stupid, which I think covers sciguybm perfectly.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Hey Elon

          I would agree but go look at previous posts... not many and all downvoted..... he's a troll.

    2. cray74

      Re: Hey Elon

      "Just because you're a rich f*** doesn't mean you can shower the oceans with your toxic rocket crap. "

      Someone hasn't checked the MSDSs for the Falcon 9. When you get done inventing false claims about the toxicity of the rocket, why don't you actually look up its choice of materials and fuels?

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Hey Elon

      Nicely trolled. I ought to give you an upvote just so you have at least 1 on record as everything posted to date has been downvotes and no upvotes.

    4. hplasm Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Hey Elon

      Put your computer in the bin The Internet rejects you.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hey Elon

      The rocket fuel has, so far, all burnt up. That's kinda the problem, in fact...it's burning up uncontrollably in the form of an explosion! When SpaceX is done the rocket will land on the platform, get seafastened and return to shore- all without leaking anything worse than you'd get from a regular boat (Slightly oily water, maybe some rig wash or other detergent- it's a drone ship so there'd be no human waste to clean or flush).

      As for radioactivity, seawater contains an amount of uranium so high as to be under serious consideration as a source of nuclear fuel. It's plenty radioactive enough. Plus an excellent shield against radiation, so fish would need to get really close to get irradiated.

      So when they're finished, no SpaceX launch will pollute the seas. And as they'll be the best option at that time, no-one will use their competitors.

      Compare this to the fishing industry, which is just terrifyingly bad for the environment and has no plans to improve.

  11. Little Mouse

    Unexpected hard rocket failure

    I tried the old "lazy throttle valve" excuse with Mrs Mouse one time.

  12. entropyk

    So use engine to slow rocket at altitude, then divert exhaust to deploy hot-air speed-buffering balloon, shoot harpoon to lz winch/engine burn combo to stabalise soft upright landing. Sounds like it would be fun to watch, anyhow.

    1. Martin Budden

      Pull a positively-buoyant rig down with a harpoon&reel? Well I'll give you a point for thinking outside the box, although I suspect the hot air balloon needed to hold up that rocket would be prohibitavely HUUUGE.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > ...I suspect the hot air balloon needed to hold up that rocket would be prohibitavely HUUUGE.

        Correct. Therefore we go even further outside the box.

        I envision a landing that goes about the same as now, except that the booster is halted about 30 meters off the deck instead of right on the deck. Then a giant (and well-padded) mechanical hand swoops in and grabs the booster, lowering it to the deck safe and sound.

        If the aim or level is a bit off, no problem, the hand can compensate. As for engineering, well, the booster is mostly empty and not too heavy to contemplate holding up with a giant hand (or two). Of course it might get crushed a bit in the middle, but if it saves the engines...

        1. PNGuinn
          Joke

          @Big John

          "Correct. Therefore we go even further outside the box."

          You'd need to - the baloon wouldn't fit in the box!

          "Then a giant (and well-padded) mechanical hand swoops in and grabs the booster"

          Or a large foot.

          Da ti da da ti da ti dah....

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Palm Pilot

            And if it crashed anyway, Elon could say "Talk to the hand."

        2. boba1l0s2k9
          Coat

          Re: @Big John

          No, no. Think BIG! The arm is so massive we don't need rockets. It just lifts things between ground and ISS.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Promising...but it still leaves the rocket 200 miles from where you really wanted it. So give the giant robot arm a whiffle bat (so as not to hurt the rocket) and clout it back to the launch pad (probably need a jumbo bouncy castle ready to land on: for the prototype could use lots of firemen holding a big sheet between them) The parts you need are probably all in the Acme catalog.

          1. McToo
            Coffee/keyboard

            Now that was...

            Brilliant!! The tears of laughter are streaming down my face!

    2. PNGuinn
      Go

      @entropyk

      Ai Ai cap'n Ahab.

  13. Alan Brown Silver badge

    The gopro footage

    Showed that the landing force was sufficient to wipe out the landing leg on the downhill side of the rocket.

    I suspect Elon might be looking at making them a little stronger or going for 5 legs (they're inherently more stable than 4 if one breaks.)

    1. eesiginfo

      Re: The gopro footage

      The fact that the guy is rich, and has had considerable success, doesn't ensure success with every venture.

      As others have stated..... the variables at play, may prove to much to ensure consistent safe landings.

      Getting it right once, will prove nothing.

      I wonder how the SABRE project is getting on..... it seems assured that HOTOL spaceships will wipe out the classic rocketry.

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        Re: The gopro footage

        "Getting it right once, will prove nothing." -- eesiginfo

        I disagree; surely getting it right once proves that it is not impossible?

  14. Winkypop Silver badge
    Trollface

    Call in Scott and Alan Tracy!

    TBs 1 and 3 never had this problem.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Call in Scott and Alan Tracy!

      Thats because the vehicles were far smaller.

      Tracy Island is off the coast of Flores in Indonesia, and the whole family are all about 4'2" tall, so giant sized rocket ships weren't needed.

      This is also why they were able to get about in a mole cruiser, and we can't buy one.

    2. Adam Foxton

      Re: Call in Scott and Alan Tracy!

      That's because the vertical-takeoff Thunderbirds landed on ground. SpaceX have already done that.

      Plus, when landing they dropped onto a catching apparatus. Which is what SpaceX needs, actually- something to catch the underside of the rocket and fasten it down.

  15. solaries
    Alien

    Why not land the booster on it's side. The classic science fiction touch down is proving hard if not impossible to do

    1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

      Nothing has been proven too hard to do yet. Only very few attempts have been made, compared to the large number of failures in early rocket history. If it can be made to work in theory, then it can be made to work in practice, and I'm pretty sure Space X has done it in theory (computer simulations) many times.

    2. Tom 13

      I'm not sure a side landing appreciably improves your odds of a soft touchdown. Now you're trying to initiate a controlled tumble that stops exactly at the right spot, and you'll have engineering issues reinforcing part of the rocket that currently isn't intended to withstand that sort of stress.

  16. KrisMac

    Why cant they add a 'catcher' to the barge?

    The targeting computer for the rocket seems to be extremely accurate - why cant they add something like a, (fairly tall), flexible inverted cone wire cage on the deck that the rocket can settle into and clamp around the body of the thruster when it gets low enough, (and presumably prior to impact with the deck itself)? The accuracy of the targeting should be enough to get the booster reasonably central in the cage and the cone shape would take care of the final few feet of lateral displacement..

    It seems to me that would negate the need for actual hard landing capability and provide the booster with stabilisation after the rocket engines are shut down... might also allow for landing in rougher seas too if the cage were to grab the booster high enough up the tube..

  17. DocJames
    Joke

    If only...

    Elon Musk reads the reg, he will now have all this amazing advice. For FREE! Aren't the internets amazing?

  18. Chris Evans

    That's what I call REAL Rocket Science!

    It makes normal Rocket Science look easy!

  19. Long John Brass Silver badge

    Dumb question

    Why not set up some exhaust ports off the main engine feed at say 45deg from the centre line

    That way you could get better throttling of the main engine by opening up the off axis "engine ports"

    You would be able to get some steering from them as well

    Any rocket surgeons care to comment?

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