back to article SpaceX: launch, check. Landing? Needs work

Well, at least the pieces were bigger this time! Won't be last RUD, but am optimistic about upcoming ship landing. pic.twitter.com/w007TccANJ — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 17, 2016 Let's be fair: vertical-landing a rocket is difficult, so it's not surprising that SpaceX's latest attempt ranked as “almost right”. After a …

  1. Lobrau

    Thinking RUD might be the new night-out, over-exuberance acronym

    Saw the video on twitter a few moments ago. Was thinking they'd managed it after the flare of the engine then slowly, slowly - oop, nope. Over she goes.

    Quite the explosion but, as Mr Musk says, at least the pieces were a bit bigger this time.

    I always look forward to updates from SpaceX. All very exciting stuff.

  2. Herby Silver badge
    Joke

    Quick Fix??

    Look, just pound out the dents, and a little bit of bondo, then a new paint job, and you ought to be in business. Do you have collision insurance? Flo says you can save by bundling, and might get 15% reduction by switching.

    Look, it works for the dents my wife's car gets (*SIGH*). It is insured by Flo as well.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Quick Fix??

      Yeah, but did your wife's car go "BOOM" after the receiving the dents? I think Flo will drop your coverage real fast if so.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Quick Fix??

      Ship it to Eastern Europe. They can make a Merc or a BMW look mint new after a collision which leaves them in a worse shape. You even get (optionally) new engine and chassis numbers :)

    3. Nolveys Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Quick Fix??

      They need to get some Reliant Robin owners on staff, they'll know what to do.

      Seriously though, the fact that they've pulled this off once and almost a second time is exceptional. Kudos to SpaceX, I'm really looking forward to see what the future holds for them.

  3. Alister Silver badge

    Maybe trying to land on a floating deck which is moving about all over the place - despite thrusters and stabilizers etc - is just a step too far.

    Even if the control of the rocket is perfect, you can still end up being smacked in the face by the landing platform.

    I know that's not the apparent primary cause of this RUD (lol) but it surely is a factor.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      It is not a step too far, just the opposite

      Frankly, for rough seas, especially in the Pacific, the barge is way too small.

      There is a surplus of supertankers anchored off the Cornwall and USA Mexican bay coast at the moment. Buying a couple of these is a better idea. Just fill it "to mark" with water prior to landing the rocket. Even your 15+ feet pacific waves will not move it (if it is pointing with the bow towards them).

      1. PNGuinn
        Coat

        Re: It is not a step too far, just the opposite @ Voland

        "There is a surplus of supertankers"

        I first read that as "supermarkets"

        Perhaps I'm on to something......

        " Unrecognised item in the bagging....."

        Thanks - it's the one with the large trolley in the top pocket

        1. James Hughes 1

          Re: It is not a step too far, just the opposite @ Voland

          The barge is really really cheap when compared to alternatives, and if it does the job (and accuracy shows it's big enough in that respect), then why bother with anything else. Since the seas for this landing were pretty big (12ft waves), and at the top end of what they seem to be able to cope with, and this landing so very nearly succeeded, its seems the barge is a good choice.

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Flame

        Re: It is not a step too far, just the opposite

        Voland's right hand,

        Currently those unused oil tankers are actually full of oil. One of the reasons the oil price is so low is that the world is getting close to running out of storage. So if someone doesn't cut supply a bit soon, then we're going to end up in the silly situation where no-one can sell any - as there's nowhere to put it, and most of the ships are full up - so you can't transport the stuff.

        Landing a big, unstable explodey thing on an even bigger potentially explodey burney thing, probably isn't such a great idea...

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: It is not a step too far, just the opposite

          Currently those unused oil tankers are actually full of oil

          I thought I wrote "fill it with water to the mark". Oh, indeed I did.

          Sell the oil first of course :)

          1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

            Re: It is not a step too far, just the opposite

            He'll only do tankers once he's got his volcano all nicely fitted out.. Besides we still have no word on his choice of pussy (cat) and rotating chairs.

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      > Maybe trying to land on a floating deck which is moving about all over the place ... is just a step too far

      Yeah, ISTR someone saying that about aircraft carriers...

      This allows high energy missions where the landing area must be located downrange because you wouldn't have enough left to kill all the inertia for an RTLS.

    3. Marshalltown

      Nah

      The landing looked fine. The video shows one of the struts failing. That might be due to the barge motion, but the take away should be that any landing on a floating barge needs to consider a need for reinforced struts and maybe a wider rest stance once landed.

      1. notowenwilson

        Re: Nah

        Or perhaps a locking system that actually locks. In an empty stage all the weight is at the bottom. I expect you could have a pretty massive rolling motion and still stay upright... if the legs stay locked.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Nah

        I'm reminded of the helicopter landing system which shoots harpoon anchors into the deck (specifically so you get a positive landing in rough seas.)

        I'm sure Elon's thought about that and discarded it for various reasons.

  4. DropBear Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Barge landing? Pshhh, kiddie stuff. Now a video uplink that doesn't cut out precisely thirty seconds before the landing, on the other hand...

    1. Richard Ball

      Those presenters on their video feed were all so ready to move on after the 'failed' link, it's almost as if they'd practiced it that way.

  5. wolfetone Silver badge

    Why can't you just make the rocket a bit more waterproof, attach some parachutes and inflatables to it, and just let it splash in to the sea? Wouldn't that be easier and a lot less hassle than trying to land it on a boat?

    1. petur

      you clearly have no idea what salt water does to a rocket.... (*)

      (*) neither do I (in detail), but I can guess and understand they rather want to avoid it.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        But didn't they do that with the solid fuel boosters the space shuttle used?

        And you're correct: I've no idea what salt water does to a rocket. But I can reason with the information at hand that landing it on a barge seems to be causing more problems to it than a bit of water.

        1. Jon 37

          Yes, they did that with the solid fuel boosters the space shuttle used. Then they spent a small fortune fixing the salt water damage before they booster could fly again - and remember that was a solid rocket booster with very few (no?) moving parts. The SpaceX first stage has 9 complicated liquid-fuelled rocket engines, plus thrusters and grid fins for direction control.

          The SpaceX plan is to skip the expensive refurbishment, just do a cheap inspection, refuel & go.

          Put it this way: What SpaceX are planning is like giving a car an oil change, new tyres and a tank of gas. What you're suggesting is like putting a car in the sea for a few hours, which is going to require major maintenance & replacing lots of parts.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            If a Falcon 9 explodes when it tips over after a gentle touchdown, it'll definitely explode if you just drop it in the ocean. Solid fuel rockets burn completely so they don't have that particular problem.

        2. notowenwilson

          Landing it on a barge the first 10 times is going to be really hard. After that it's significantly easier. Landing it in the water is most likely going to require a complete rebuild of the stage (if it even survives). That will get cheaper over time but I wouldn't think it's the optimum solution compared to keeping it dry in the first place.

      2. Grikath Silver badge

        "you clearly have no idea what salt water does to a rocket.... "

        Anything red-hot or worse will

        a) cool down at a rate which any blacksmith will tell you is "Not Good"

        b) react with any ions present, according to entropic preference, in a rather spectacular fashion, with both speed and heat creating a convection that ensures a continuous supply of said ions. And that's assuming the bits aren't hot enough to dissociate the water itself, which opens up another can of worms.

        Given that the hottest bits are the engines, and the whole purpose of the exercise is to salvage the most expensive parts of the rocket: the engines, landing it in water, let alone seawater, is, all things considered a Pretty Bad Idea.

    2. Weapon

      It is not as simple as making it water proof, you need to make it corrosion proof (salt water is corrosive) and water pressure proof. Doing all that will add a lot of complexity, cost and weight.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        How about landing it in a swimming pool then?

    3. chic

      Or even land it on, well, land! Clues in the name, doesn't bounce about so much, weather tends to be more clement and have less effect

      1. dotdavid

        Whenever there's a SpaceX failure it never ceases to amaze me how many suggestions there are from commentards that seem to truly believe that SpaceX's engineers and scientists really didn't think of the (to them) obviously-better-way they've come up with after five minutes reading an article.

    4. SysFX

      Very hot and expensive alloys tend to corrode very quickly when immersed in salt water.

    5. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Time warp to 1962

      There was a plan called Sea Dragon. Unlike most rockets, Sea Dragon was made of thick steal and used simple brute force engineering. The idea was to launch it from the sea, and recover it for re-use after it crashed back into the sea.

      If we really want cheap space travel, we should re-invent the NERVA engine.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Time warp to 1962

        "Unlike most rockets, Sea Dragon was made of thick steal and used simple brute force engineering. "

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_Dragon_(rocket)

        It was impressive and would have worked. It still could if someone was rich and brave enough to fund it.

        One of the problems with building it is that if the prototype fails you probably can't afford to build another and if it works you've just put most of the rocket launching business, out of business.

        As for brute-force - it was designed to be built in a _shipyard_, using standard shipbuilding techniques. none of this namby-pamby aeronautics shit.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Live embarassment

    I watched it live. They cut the video of the landing and gave us no telemetry from the first stage, leaving us with no idea what happened.

    Because they were covering up their failure LIVE ON AIR.

    Disappointing.

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: Live embarassment

      Must be the worst cover up EVER, since they have tweeted a video of the landing and subsequent RUD.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Live embarassment

        Yes, but they cut the live feed.

        1. Weapon

          Re: Live embarassment

          You have a data link to the craft, the live feed is eating up data. If they are getting a lot of data, the data would prioritize itself over the feed.

          Realistically speaking, they had no reason to even show you a live feed, they haven't in the past. They included a live feed out of courtesy, something they do not have to do. But again, Data > you getting live video feed.

          Once they got their data, they downloaded the feed and published it in a few hours.

          1. Known Hero

            Re: Live embarassment

            @weapon.

            Your not actually connected to the camera's on the barge feed, you get that right ?

            I'm going to agree, there is no reason for the feed cutting yet again just at landing, although that said I am not wearing a tin foil hat or so on, there is no coverup etc etc ... But a vid feed is simple tech.

            Still AWESOME LANDING !!!!

            1. Weapon

              Re: Live embarassment

              The barge feed goes to their servers, then they transmit it to you. While the feed is live there is most likely a few seconds delay. Due to actual data taking priority over video feed data.

              When it crashed, the explosion most likely temporarily killed the data feed. From then on priority was on collection of data. Not recovering the video feed.

              A pretty simple concept.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Live embarassment

            @Weapon:

            You honestly believe that ?

            So why did they not give us the telemetry showing the first stage had exploded ?

            Why did the commentators ignore it ?

            The tech is indeed awesome, but the PR makes them look foolish.

            1. James Hughes 1

              Re: Live embarassment

              Why on earth should they tell you that their stage just blew up? Right away? Live?

              I would wait until they knew what happened, then publish that, to prevent lots of unwarranted speculation. As it is, they published the results within hours!

              You should be bloody happy you get to see anything, rather than complaining you didn't see it live. Some people really want the world on a stick.

              1. DropBear Silver badge

                Re: Live embarassment

                "Why on earth should they tell you that their stage just blew up? Right away? Live?"

                Because _that's_ what every single viewer was there to watch, and because they agreed to webcast it, that's why. The launch itself - as awesome as it is, and as relatively new to SpaceX as it may be - is nothing particularly new or exciting in the general context of human rocketry. The attraction is the landing, and they should know that full well.

                If they really had uplink failure _right_ before touchdown, that sort of thing is not something I really can hold against them, as much as it did piss me off - broadcast technology is not rocket science, allegedly. But simply shutting up about the result with all those people waiting for some news and getting none was not cool. They didn't have to go "okay well we blew up" if they didn't want to - all they bloody had to say was "we have just received word the landing was not successful". That's all. I'm pretty sure that much was obvious to everybody involved within seconds, except all those people watching, holding their breath for some sort of result...

                1. Killing Time

                  Re: Live embarassment

                  RE: "we have just received word the landing was not successful". They did pretty much announce that on the hosted feed around twenty mins after Stg 1 was due to land ( the hosted feed was about 10 mins behind the live feed, I was watching both).

                  Yes,it was a fortuitous failure of the barge feed and when both the live and delayed (hosted feed) failed to show events on the JFTI it was pretty clear things had not gone to plan.

                  30 mins to gather their thoughts, make a preliminary assessment and refocus on the moneyshot which was the nominal launch of Jason 3? I can forgive them that.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Live embarassment

                @James Hughes: Why ? Because SpaceX put on a media show for the entire launch and landing.

                Did you watch it ? Everything was shown, including live telemetry and live video from the Barge.

                Then it went wrong and they cut off the landing video and stopped mentioning it.

                It's how Stalin would run a space program, and the people who matter to SpaceX ( neither of us, I suspect ) will be cringing.

                1. Weapon

                  Re: Live embarassment

                  There is a DELAY in the feed and actual data. They did not cut it off, the EXPLOSION cut it off.

                  From then on data took priority over the feed.

                  And your Stalin comments are a sad joke.If Stalin was running it, he would not make a live feed, he would just only show the success and cover up all failure. SpaceX is offering full transparency, more than anyone else in the space industry.

                2. kyza

                  Re: Live embarassment

                  It's how Stalin would run a space program, and the people who matter to SpaceX ( neither of us, I suspect ) will be cringing.

                  I nominate this for my 'worst hyperbole in an internet comment today' award.

                  Under Stalin you wouldn't even have known there was a launch if it had gone wrong.

        2. TeeCee Gold badge
          WTF?

          Re: Live embarassment

          Ok, let's just suppose for a moment that they cut the feed, landed it, removed whatever they wanted and then blew it up.

          Just one question: Exactly what do you think it is that Elon Musk is smuggling in from space?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Live embarassment

            @TeeCee: I was alleging PR incompetence not Space Smuggling, but now you mention it, I will be keeping my eye on Dilithium Crystal price in the spot market.

          2. dotdavid

            Re: Live embarassment

            "Ok, let's just suppose for a moment that they cut the feed, landed it, removed whatever they wanted and then blew it up."

            They cut the bit where it spun around the Earth crashing into random buildings and killing lots of people, like an out-of-control firework. You can tell by the pixels and the fact that lots of commentards have seen a lot of shops in their time.

            1. James Hughes 1

              Re: Live embarassment

              WHAT?

              Comparing SpaceX relatively public (but still private) space program to one run by Stalin.

              Un-fucking-believable.

              Some people have no bloody idea. At all.

              If you want to know what really private development is like, follow Blue Origin.

              It really beggars belief people can get so pissy about a private company wanting to keep an accident under wraps until they can release it at their own speed. You found out about it within a couple of hours. A COUPLE OF HOURS. That's all. If that was such a bloody big inconvenience to you, I suggest you find something to follow with a little more real time action, like Candy Crush.

          3. Pookietoo

            Re: smuggling in from space

            You realise the first stage doesn't actually leave the atmosphere?

            1. Weapon

              Re: smuggling in from space

              I am sure they did, because even earth orbiting satellites don't leave the atmosphere, the exosphere goes all the way to 10,000km

            2. Javc

              Re: smuggling in from space

              I think 140 Km is above the atmosphere and "in space".

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: smuggling in from space

                > I think 140 Km is above the atmosphere and "in space".

                It's still in the exophere. That said, it's a better vacuum than anything we can cook up on earth.

        3. jzl

          Re: Live embarassment

          SpaceX is a privately held, for-profit launch company. I think you're confusing them with HBO.

  7. Stanislaw
    Happy

    Cheer up!

    I'm not sure why people are being sniffy about this one. SpaceX do appear to have achieved a soft landing almost dead centre on a moving target. The loss of the vehicle seems to be unrelated to the actual landing.

    Yes, I know the rocket went boom so the result is the same - but faced with either having to engineer the whole landing system or having to engineer a better landing leg, I know which problem I'd rather have.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Cheer up!

      I'm thinking that maybe heat the rocket plume caused the leg failure and some thermal shielding might help. Guess that there is some very lightweight engineering in those legs, as every kilo extra on the legs is a kilo off the payload.

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: Cheer up!

        Actually the opposite - possible ice on a locking collet on the failed leg, meaning it wasn't locked in place.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Tis but a Scratch!"

    The 'Black Knight' was delusional as well!

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: "Tis but a Scratch!"

      Is that why we cancelled it and built Black Arrow?

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Knight_(rocket)

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Arrow

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sad that the BBC news...

    Decided to report this failure on the TV news, but didn't mention the major success and technical advances shown by the landing last month.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Sad that the BBC news...

      From the beeb webiste:

      "This is the moment an unmanned SpaceX Falcon rocket exploded on landing after successfully delivering an ocean monitoring satellite to orbit.

      The cause of the problem was that one of the rocket's legs collapsed as it tried to land on a floating ocean barge.

      The rocket company had managed a historic first controlled return of an orbital stage last month."

    2. Grikath Silver badge

      Re: Sad that the BBC news...

      How on earth is this a "failure" ?

      So far SpaceX has shown that for a given launch they can consistently have a very large piece of fireworks go Up, get a short but intimate roasting by the second stage, come down at hypersonic speed through several layers of atmospheric conditions that may or may not be Friendly to said speeds being in effect, decelerate it safely and consistently, and have it end up at a predetermined place within the margin of the famed "10-foot rope" with the right side up, balancing on its own flame. In the case of RTFM ( sorry... that is her name.. period..) there's also trying this in/on an environment that's not really known for its spatial stability and wind-free conditions.

      Given that SpaceX cannot afford to do test runs, and has to treat any actual launch as a test run in this matter, I think they're actually doing rather well, given the extremely limited amount of tries they've gotten.

      So what failure?... This is bloody impressive as it is.

  10. AdamT
    Mushroom

    Hey, Subs! You can have this for free:

    "Stuck the landing but not the standing"

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Hey, Subs! You can have this for free:

      "Any landing you walk..." um, "roll around the barge and explode from" is a success in my book.

  11. Timbo

    "Maybe trying to land on a floating deck which is moving about all over the place - despite thrusters and stabilizers etc - is just a step too far."

    Why can't they just rent a bit of land somewhere remote-ish, paint a nice target ring on it and land it on terra firma.

    I know some govt depts don't like the idea of space rockets, partly filled with rocket fuel, landing in peoples back yards, but surely Mr Musk has got deep enough pockets to buy a bit of ground somewhere ?

    1. James Hughes 1

      Not that many bits of ground in the right place, ie within range of the fuel budget. Some launches can RTLS (To Canaveral or Vandenburg, where they do have landing pads), others need to land down range which means floating pads. There are also land overfly limitations.

    2. Weapon

      1) Because even if you own the land you still need approval

      2) Not all launches will have the luxury of landing on land that you want

      3) This launch was to polar orbit, a rare orbit to launch to.

      They might buy some land or make some fake land in their new launch facility they are building in Texas. But as far as their launch platform in CA, the launch happens too rare there.

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      Depending on how much they'd have to move the platform to support different launches, as a compromise between a barge and an island SpaceX could use an old oil-rig.

      Also, "oil-rig lair" is appropriately Bond villain for Musk ;)

    4. Greem

      Musk explained on Twitter...

      "As mentioned before, ship landings are needed for high velocity missions. Altitude & distance don't mean much for orbit. All about speed."

      "Ship landings are not needed for flexibility or to save fuel costs. Just not physically possible to return to launch site"

      "If speed at stage separation > ~6000 km/hr. With a ship, no need to zero out lateral velocity, so can stage at up to ~9000 km/h."

      So he's being very open about it - they can get better staging if they don't have to do a turn-about to go home, and having the target zone at sea means less damage if things go wrong.

    5. Timbo

      "but surely Mr Musk has got deep enough pockets to buy a bit of ground somewhere ?"

      I'm not sure why I got 2 thumbs down for this...as according to a story in ElReg, Mr Musk is planning on doing just what I suggested..almost exactly 6 months after my suggestion ;-)

      [url]http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/07/20/after_mondays_landing_spacex_wants_to_do_it_in_triplicate/[/url]

  12. thimon
    Mushroom

    Netting / cabling?

    Just thinking out loud... Before it started tilting over could they not have some netting or cabling that quickly attached itself or encompassed the rocket?

    1. Hope Spirals
      Thumb Up

      Re: Netting / cabling?

      Or why not land in a suitable hole - perhaps created by taking hollowing out an extinct volcano?

      1. thimon

        Re: Netting / cabling?

        Or land in bubblewrap! :)

        1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

          Very large

          airbags.

      2. Myself-NZ

        Extinct volcano

        AFAIK there are no extinct volcanoes - aren't they all labelled as "dormant" so vulcanologists have a general get out of jail clause in case one that they have labelled as "safe" suddenly decides to erupt and all the people on it get damaged/dead.

        1. Grikath Silver badge

          Re: Extinct volcano

          Not exactly. There's plenty of volcanos that are extinct. Magma chamber completely solidified, if not collapsed, no feed, with the fault they're on no more geologically active than background.

          The biggest problem there, of course, it that they lack the one feature mandatory for a Volcanic Lair: the Lava Lake. You could create some of the infernal atmosphere with a couple of blast furnaces, which could double up as Fiery Pits where you could hang the Hero's Love Interest over, of course. But in all that would sort of amount to using a gas BBQ instead of proper charcoal and skill: It works, probably even better when you consider control of eventualities, but it just isn't the same.

          I am , obviously, a Thradhithionalisht in these matters. ymmv for the modern crop of youngster upstart Overlords.

        2. jzl

          Re: Extinct volcano

          There are gazillions of extinct volcanoes. Including a large number in the UK. The Earth is very, very, very old.

    2. Jon 37

      Re: Netting / cabling?

      The rocket isn't designed to be strong enough if there's a net/cable wrapped around it taking a significant fraction of the rocket's weight. Kaboom! Or at least big dents in the rocket, so if you try to refuel it and fly it again... Kaboom!

      The rocket is designed to stand on the launch pad with the weight on the hold-down clamps at the bottom of the rocket, and to fly through the air with the rocket engines at the bottom of the rocket pushing with more force than the weight of the rocket. So there's no (or not much) additional structural reinforcing needed to allow it to be supported by legs attached to the bottom of the rocket. In contrast, making it survive a net/cable would require a lot of structure, hence a lot of weight, which reduces performance.

  13. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    lander.exe

    It's almost like Musk is just playing Lunar Lander

    1. phil dude
      Joke

      Re: lander.exe

      you could have posted a link...;-)

      An HTML5 version, of course...

      P.

  14. DuncanL

    Soooo close

    Absolutely stuck the landing (even on the rolling barge) but the leg failure made it go boom.

    1. Shades
      Holmes

      Re: Soooo close

      If you hadn't of said I'd have never known!

      1. Shades
        Trollface

        Re: Soooo close

        With reference to my previous ^^^ comment >>>

        ;)

  15. Solly
    Thumb Up

    Just Read the Instructions

    That's a very Iain M Banks-esque name for a ship....

    1. Greem

      Re: Just Read the Instructions

      Indeed it is; Musk & SpaceX have been pretty open about the naming of their two drone ships as a tribute to Banks.

      1. dotdavid

        Re: Just Read the Instructions

        I'm hoping there's going to be some other barges.

        - Just Testing

        - Funny, It Worked Last Time...

        - Now We Try It My Way

        1. Myself-NZ

          Re: Just Read the Instructions

          You will know when he goes into full villain mode - the barge name will be No More Mr Nice Guy....

  16. DrXym Silver badge

    So close

    They had a successful launch, they delivered a satellite into orbit, they landed the booster back onto a barge (1st) time. Then a wonky leg topples it.

  17. Matthew 17

    what stops it falling over, even if all legs work?

    The barge looks tiny, has to be moving about in the water.

    With those little legs it looks like the centre of gravity is going to be quite high up.

    There doesn't seem to be anything to grab it and prevent it toppling over before it has been recovered.

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: what stops it falling over, even if all legs work?

      I think you underestimate how big the F9 1st stage is. The leg span is over 10m. Once you take in to account all the weight is in the engines, the CoG is very low.

      Also, the barge is the size of a football pitch....

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: what stops it falling over, even if all legs work?

        >Also, the barge is the size of a football pitch...

        So that explains why, after a perfect landing, it clutched its knee and fell over - then rolled off the pitch.

        1. James Hughes 1

          Re: what stops it falling over, even if all legs work?

          But doesn't explain why it didn't then pick itself up and continue on with no apparent ill effects.

  18. 4ecks
    Coat

    Get rid of the legs..

    Weebles wobble, but they don't fall down!

    For the youngsters :- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weeble

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Get rid of the legs..

      Begone! This site is Playmobil territory!

  19. Ashton Black

    To quote a great Kerbal

    "Needs more struts." - Wernher von Kerman

  20. graeme leggett

    Emotional rollercoaster

    Watching the video.

    It lands - yippee

    It starts to topple - ooooerrr

    It's obvious it's going to fall flat on its side but you think "perhaps they'll be able to repair it"

    Then it explodes.

    1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      Re: Emotional rollercoaster

      They wouldn't launch it again even if it landed perfectly - it is all part of learning process and first landed boosters are not meant for repeated starts, but for very, very careful analysis and tests. The sad part is that this time there was little left for analysis, the less sad part is that this was an old design anyway - last of this version. The next version is Dragon 9 1.1 Full Thrust (which landed in Florida recently) and among many improvements it includes "upgraded structures for the landing legs".

  21. Francis Boyle Silver badge

    "Dragon 9 1.1 Full Thrust"

    Is that the one with Vin Diesel?

    No wait I think that was Dragon 9 2.0: Fuller and Thrustier.

  22. tempemeaty
    Joke

    Good landing but...

    ...someone needs to get that thing to a bicycle shop to install a better kick stand.

  23. BattleBotBob

    The video is hilarious!

    https://www.instagram.com/p/BAqirNbwEc0/?taken-by=elonmusk

    It looks like it landed straight up, but when I saw the flames on the deck are not symmetric, I realized that maybe there was more than just a lockout failure. I would hate to think they just chose the one video angle that make it looked like it landed properly. When it becomes a highly edited event with significant delay in release of footage, I worry who they are trying to keep the news away from. I didnt think they had many investors they are trying to manage, but maybe their customers will start worrying if they can't deliver on their much touted rates if they cant actually refly any hardware.

    1. James Hughes 1

      I fear you are entering tin foil hat territory. They have already landed a stage on land successfully, this is more difficult, but still, almost worked. Not sure your conspiracy makes any sense.

      1. Grikath Silver badge

        The best you can say that it looks like it landed on the failing leg a tad early after the final correction, making it possible something sheared because it was pushed beyond design limits. Given that this was the old model, this would not have happened with the one they managed to land landside, since that one's been designed to be able to take more abuse.

        They did get it to a full controlled stop, however briefly, whereas the previous barge attempts were more like a controlled crash.

        No need for hats tinfoil or otherwise. This was a good, and nearly successful, attempt at trying to get a very heavy brick from Mach 5.5+ to a standstill on a post stamp. Using just the brakes...

    2. jzl

      The rates that customers are paying at the moment for launch don't include reuse. So the customers are paying for a new rocket each time - they don't care what happens to it once their payload is launched.

  24. Adam Jarvis

    Problem appears to be clockwise rotation

    I don't think it was a problem with legs not locking out, it appears the rocket still has a slight 2-3mph clockwise rotation/motion 'spin' in the final few seconds, that causes a lateral twist to be applied to the landing legs support brackets, which remain in a fixed place on landing, but are unable to absorb this sideways force (been designed to take a downwards force, rather than a spinning lateral one). It almost appears that one of legs disappears, but its the other leg been forced sideways, so that meet.

    Take out that spin/body roll, and that could have been a perfect landing. Shame.

    Given the stresses on the booster stage, likely to cause even slight deformations (which could affect reuse aerodynamics) around the landing leg bolts/booster body. Spacex's goal may well be to save/reuse the Engline Parts, as the realistic long term goal, rather than re-use the actual booster stage intact, even if the Spacex PR simply says its goal is to reuse the rocket booster stage 'as is'.

    It would be a great PR exercise if they did get permission to attempt to land on an US Aircraft Carrier though, would be quite a show. Lets hope that happens at some future date.

    1. jzl

      Re: Problem appears to be clockwise rotation

      Go you. I'm sure Musk and his team of engineers were just guessing totally blind when he took to Twitter.

      As for landing on an aircraft carrier, WTF? Why would they even want to?

      Aircraft carriers are insanely expensive and full of explody things and damageable people. They have busy schedules. They're owned by the US navy. Their decks have lots of equipment that wouldn't handle a rocket flame well. They're kind of high above sea level for the cranes. And, again... WTF?

      1. Adam Jarvis

        Re: Problem appears to be clockwise rotation

        Musk himself had mentioned the Aircraft Carrier, in reply to someone tweeting him a picture, saying this is what you need after an earlier failure last year. He didn't dismiss the idea like you (and took the time to reply). ;)

        In terms of PR/publicity, its not as daft as it sounds, decks can cleared, and the deck itself has a hydraulic lift to move gear/objects to lower levels. Given Spacex already launches from (and will land to US military sites) and already launches secret US military satellites, its not completely inconceivable. It would show a real belief in the technology too by both parties.

        If Musk thought like you, Spacex wouldn't exist. Spacex wants a slice of the military launch budget just like any other commercial satellite launch company.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Problem appears to be clockwise rotation

      " it appears the rocket still has a slight 2-3mph clockwise rotation/motion 'spin' in the final few seconds"

      Unlikely. SpaceX don't spin-stabilise on the way down - for the very simple reason that centrifugal forces (ok ok, centripetal) sloshes the fuel around the sides of the rocket and subsequently starves the engines (this was discovered even before they attempted barge landings)

      The grid thingies are there to keep it _from_ spinning as well as to guide it back to landing.

      It looks to me that as the rockets shut off, that leg popped. Elon's still doing better than anyone else who's tried this shit and we don't have telemetry telling us what went wrong. He does. :)

  25. This post has been deleted by its author

  26. starbright

    my swivel chair has 5 legs

    my swivel chair has 5 legs so I don't fall on my ass.. :/

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: my swivel chair has 5 legs

      Your swivel chair may have 5 legs, but launch mass isn't a consideration for it.

      Apollo landers had 4 legs because they couldn't guarantee stability for 3 and 5 was too heavy.

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