SpaceX warns of failure in Wednesday's rocket landing

February 23, 2016
The Falcon 9 rocket

California-based SpaceX is already warning that failure is likely in Wednesday's attempt at landing its Falcon 9 rocket, following the launch of a European satellite into a distant orbit.

A 90-minute window for liftoff of the opens on February 24 at 6:46 pm (2346 GMT) from Cape Canaveral, Florida, SpaceX said on its website. In case of bad weather, another opportunity arises Thursday around the same time.

The goal of the mission is to propel a Boeing-built SES-9 satellite—delivering television and to the Asia-Pacific region—to a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) far above the equator.

Then, SpaceX will try again to land the tall part of its rocket, known as the first stage, on a floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean.

"Following stage separation, the first stage of the Falcon 9 will attempt an experimental landing on the 'Of Course I Still Love You' droneship," SpaceX said.

"Given this mission's unique GTO profile, a successful landing is not expected."

SpaceX successfully landed its Falcon 9 on solid ground last year, but numerous attempts at on barges in the Atlantic and Pacific have failed.

Headed by Internet entrepreneur Elon Musk, who also runs Tesla Motors, the company is working to hone the techniques of recycling rockets, instead of jettisoning their costly components after each launch.

The aim is to make launches more affordable and environmentally friendly.

The launch is commissioned by SES, a Luxembourg-based company that specializes in worldwide satellite communications.

Explore further: SpaceX postpones rocket launch until Monday (Update)

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6 comments

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freeiam
5 / 5 (2) Feb 23, 2016
I think it's likely they will succeed.
In any case I very much hope they do.
baudrunner
2.5 / 5 (4) Feb 23, 2016
An alternative method might be to stow a parachute for use during descent, then release it and have thrusters take over to complete the landing. That might conserve enough fuel to navigate the first stage to the barge.
Scottingham
5 / 5 (1) Feb 23, 2016
The extra weight and complexity of a chute negates any benefits it might have.

I think the weather on Wednesday is looking to be pretty crappy. So even if they pull off getting to the ship with the drastically reduced fuel, the heavy seas will present problems. I'm hoping they postpone to Thursday, to be honest.
baudrunner
2 / 5 (3) Feb 23, 2016
The extra weight and complexity of a chute negates any benefits it might have.
Elon likes complexity, and the extra weight is manageable. It's only the first stage.
Urgelt
4.8 / 5 (4) Feb 24, 2016

baudrunner wrote, "An alternative method might be to stow a parachute for use during descent, then release it and have thrusters take over to complete the landing. That might conserve enough fuel to navigate the first stage to the barge."

Navigating the booster to the barge is not a problem. They have enough fuel after launch for that, and they've gotten soft landings on the barge. The problems they've run into are mostly control problems.

Did you see their last attempt? They put the booster right on the X on the center of the barge. But one of the landing struts collapsed, and over it went. There was a residual sideways vector that was too much for the landing strut. The strut may have been underengineered, defective or damaged by ice, but eliminating the sideways vector itself is a control problem.. Not an easy control problem, either - the barge itself is moving.

A parachute is unnecessary - just added mechanical complexity that they do not need.
baudrunner
1 / 5 (2) Feb 24, 2016
A parachute is unnecessary - just added mechanical complexity that they do not need.
You're not understanding the gist of the article. The orbital placement of the payload is such that the logistics of returning to the barge are problematic at best. The article stated,
"Given this mission's unique GTO profile, a successful landing is not expected."
Obviously there are factors concerning apogee of the first stage. At that point, a little extra fuel would be appreciated if t is desired to have it return to a successful landing. A parachute would facilitate that requirement, and it's not that complicated. Complexity is not a turn-off. Sacrificing the occasional first stage means a $60 million loss each time they do that. That's not an option in the long run, if SpaceX is to remain competitive.

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