SpaceX releases video of rocket crash-landing on ocean barge

January 17, 2015
This Jan. 10, 2015 image from video provided by SpaceX shows its booster rocket trying to land on a floating barge in the Atlantic after launch, in an unprecedented attempt that ended in a fiery explosion. The video released Friday, Jan. 16, 2015 shows the rocket hitting the football field-sized barge a couple hundred miles off Florida's northeastern coast. The landing attempt came minutes after separation from the main rocket that successfully delivered groceries and science experiments to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/SpaceX)

SpaceX has released dramatic footage of its booster rocket trying to land on a floating ocean barge after a launch—an unprecedented attempt that ended in a fiery explosion.

The video released Friday shows the 14-story rocket hitting the football field-sized barge at an angle, lighting up the off the Florida coast.

Saturday's landing attempt came minutes after the Falcon 9 rocket launched a load of supplies to the International Space Station. The first stage peeled away and flew to the barge.

After the loss, SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted: "Close, but no cigar this time." He tweeted this week that the rocket's legs and engine section were smashed.

The Southern California-based company attempted the touchdown because it wants to launch reusable rockets to bring down costs.

This Jan. 10, 2015 image from video provided by SpaceX shows its booster rocket trying to land on a floating barge in the Atlantic after launch, in an unprecedented attempt that ended in a fiery explosion. The video released Friday, Jan. 16, 2015 shows the rocket hitting the football field-sized barge a couple hundred miles off Florida's northeastern coast. The landing attempt came minutes after separation from the main rocket that successfully delivered groceries and science experiments to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/SpaceX)
This Jan. 10, 2015 image from video provided by SpaceX shows its booster rocket trying to land on a floating barge in the Atlantic after launch, in an unprecedented attempt that ended in a fiery explosion. The video released Friday, Jan. 16, 2015 shows the rocket hitting the football field-sized barge a couple hundred miles off Florida's northeastern coast. The landing attempt came minutes after separation from the main rocket that successfully delivered groceries and science experiments to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/SpaceX)

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Perception
5 / 5 (11) Jan 17, 2015
Well it was a good attempt and you learn nothing if you don't try! Perhaps second time lucky? The fact that the first stage got to the barge at all is remarkable.
vader
5 / 5 (7) Jan 17, 2015
It's still an impressive feat that it actually made it to the target landing zone. It looks like it missed the deck by mere feet then clipped it during course correction.
KBK
3.7 / 5 (6) Jan 17, 2015
It looks like a issue of residual fuel vs ability to develop pressure, vs ability to correct.

As if they prioritized target area alignment over just about everything else. The residual rate of decent, tilting of the rocket, and so on...all seem to indicate such a scenario. ie, that they've never run a rocket that dry, and thus rate of fuel use vs residual mass and it's distribution, and so on.

I'm betting they learned a very considerable amount of things on how their rockets behave when nearly out of fuel. They managed to not just attempt a landing, but to understand how their own hardware behaves when nearly out of fuel, which is difficult to understand when trying to to basic landings like they have before.

The complexity of behaviour of the rocket under these circumstances would be considerably different than prior land tests.

They fact that it made it that close and on target, is a huge success, when viewed in the real context of engineered guesses and final outcome.
KBK
1 / 5 (2) Jan 17, 2015
Ok, fixed it.

Took me a few minutes.

How does one get ahold of Elon Musk?
h20dr
not rated yet Jan 17, 2015
Close but no cigar!
Eikka
4.5 / 5 (2) Jan 17, 2015
The complexity of behaviour of the rocket under these circumstances would be considerably different than prior land tests.


The rocket is an inverted pendulum and they have little lateral control over it at low speeds because they can't point the engine sideways. When it tips over beyond some critical angle, there's no possible recovery.

You can try balancing a broomstick on your palm to see the issue. It has to point more or less straight up or you can't control it, and trying to make large course corrections result in the stick falling over.

Wind is also probelmatic, because the rocket has to lean into the wind and cannot land on its feet, and winds come in gusts. It's a near impossible task in anything but fair weather.

antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (2) Jan 17, 2015
Pretty good hitting the barge at all.
[q}It looks like it missed the deck by mere feet then clipped it during course correction.
I think it came in WAY too fast, and also was already at more of a 45 degree angle when it hit..

I wonder if a drone-based catch/stabilize element in mid air would be feasible before the actual touchdown.
Eikka
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 17, 2015
I wonder if a drone-based catch/stabilize element in mid air would be feasible before the actual touchdown.


Or just inflatable floats and a parachute.

A parachute would also save fuel even with a powered landing, because the rocket has to fire continuously just to stop itself from picking more speed. That's why it wastes so much fuel to do a powered landing.

With a parachute it could brake to a suitably low speed, then coast down, and cut the parachute when it's close enough to the ground to fly the rest of the way under rocket power.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (6) Jan 17, 2015
Parachutes have their pros and cons. A pro would be that by the very nature of parachutes the rocket would stay upright
Cons are the additional weight of the system (though that would be offset somehat by the reduced fuel requirement) and the inability to maneouver laterally to any large extent while the parachutes are deployed.

I don't think a horizontal landing under any condition (solid ground, water, or rubber/inflateable pad) would work - as even the slightes difference in touchdown-times between the front end and the back end would snap this thing. At that point it's basically a very heavy 14 story hollow tube.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.4 / 5 (5) Jan 17, 2015
you can't control it, and trying to make large course corrections result in the stick falling over
But this is the same with all rockets going either backwards or forwards. Lots of experience.
It's a near impossible task in anything but fair weather.
And so we must ask ourselves why a team of (real) experts is spending so much time and money to develop a system based on this very capability?
https://www.youtu...mzB5QM1M

-Any ideas?

Here is a hovering decoy missile deployed by various western navies.
https://www.youtu...VElPJQk0

"Nulka is a rocket propelled, disposable, offboard, active decoy designed to ″seduce″ anti-ship missiles away from their targets. It has a unique design in that it hovers in mid air while seducing the incoming anti-ship missile"

-Once again, real engineers triumph where others only guess.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (4) Jan 17, 2015
I don't think a horizontal landing under any condition (solid ground, water, or rubber/inflateable pad) would work - as even the slightest difference in touchdown-times between the front end and the back end would snap this thing


This is not quite a rocket but its close.
http://en.wikiped...craft%29
https://www.youtu...jiGGy0gc

"Skylon is a design for a single-stage-to-orbit spaceplane by the British company Reaction Engines Limited (REL), using SABRE, a combined-cycle, air-breathing rocket propulsion system"
Eikka
1.5 / 5 (2) Jan 17, 2015
-Any ideas?


Misplaced confidence?

Your examples don't exactly refute the points made.

The decoy missile is much smaller, so it has a vastly different power to weight ratio. It's like comparing a hummingbird to a paraglider.

The grasshopper, being a larger rocket stands bolt upright in the air because if it were to tip over slightly, it would be able to generate enough torque fast enough to correct.

If you imagine one trying to land on a barge in gale force winds, the reality of the situation starts to sink in. These things can't be limited to launch only on calm sunny days.

And so we must ask ourselves why a team of (real) experts is spending so much time and money to develop a system based on this very capability?


Elon Musk is spending money, the engineers and experts are simply doing what they're being paid for.

And I'm willing to bet many of them are shaking their heads while doing it.
Eikka
1.3 / 5 (3) Jan 17, 2015
I don't think a horizontal landing under any condition (solid ground, water, or rubber/inflateable pad) would work - as even the slightes difference in touchdown-times between the front end and the back end would snap this thing. At that point it's basically a very heavy 14 story hollow tube.


So let it snap?

I don't believe for one second that they can safely use the same rocket over and over again as-is without tearing it apart to bits and checking that nothing is broken. It's going to be the same thing as with the Space Shuttle all over, mark my words. They'll try, and they'll fail, and hopefully they won't kill anyone before they're finally forced to admit that it doesn't work - if they even get that far.

So, if they end up essentially rebuilding the thing anyways, they can land it down in water nose first and salvage the business end.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 17, 2015
The decoy missile is much smaller, so it has a vastly different power to weight ratio. It's like comparing a hummingbird to a paraglider
A hummingbirds operation is much more complex than a paragliders.
If you imagine one trying to land on a barge in gale force winds, the reality of the situation starts to sink in
No space agency, private or public, launches in gale force winds. Launches and landings are often called on account of weather. Whats your point?
I don't believe for one second that they can safely use the same rocket over and over again as-is without tearing it apart to bits and checking that nothing is broken
Well - obviously - musk and his team would disagree with you. You commented on their long term goal of doing just this in a previous thread:
but they simply haven't made any headway towards it
-But youll note in the vid that they HAVE in fact made significant headway. And 737s land every day without being stripped, dont they?
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.4 / 5 (5) Jan 17, 2015
I don't believe for one second that they can safely use the same rocket over and over again as-is without tearing it apart to bits and checking that nothing is broken. It's going to be the same thing as with the Space Shuttle all over, mark my words
So youre saying that commercial-scale spaceflight is an impossibility? Thats pretty naive dont you think?

This is a little puzzling:
The decoy missile is much smaller, so it has a vastly different power to weight ratio
As they both have the capability to hover, the ratios would be the same. Of course the spacex stages need to slow down from a great speed but like I say stabilization is the same whether accelerating or decelerating. And the 2 spacex stages are coming down separate and unloaded, and thus would be easier to stabilize than during ascent.
dan42day
5 / 5 (5) Jan 17, 2015
I don't believe for one second that they can... They'll try, and they'll fail, and hopefully they won't kill anyone before they're finally forced to admit that it doesn't work - if they even get that far.


I wonder how many times the Wright brothers heard that?

xstos
not rated yet Jan 17, 2015
What they need is a giant catcher's mitt floating on top of the ocean. I'm sure Shaq can provide one if they ask him.
TogetherinParis
not rated yet Jan 18, 2015
I think it was leaning all the way down. Easy fix. Also, add some thrusters near the top.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 18, 2015
I don't believe for one second that they can... They'll try, and they'll fail, and hopefully they won't kill anyone before they're finally forced to admit that it doesn't work - if they even get that far.


I wonder how many times the Wright brothers heard that?
"heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible" [1895]... "I have not the smallest molecule of faith in aerial navigation other than ballooning...I would not care to be a member of the Aeronautical Society." [1896] -Lord Kelvin
jimbo92107
1 / 5 (1) Jan 18, 2015
Just a little to the left. No, right, no, left, right.... BOOOOM!

Whoops.

Hey, just wait'll I re-spawn!
ashukuku
not rated yet Jan 20, 2015
They just need to put a retractable propeller on top of this......and It shuld work....
Eikka
not rated yet Jan 20, 2015
A hummingbirds operation is much more complex than a paragliders.


Yes. And?

No matter how complex you made the paraglider, it still wouldn't control like a hummingbird because there's 100-200 kilos more mass involved. That was the point.

-But youll note in the vid that they HAVE in fact made significant headway.


You're misquoting me. I said they haven't made any headway towards the initial goal of getting the rocket to land back on its launchpad.

As they both have the capability to hover, the ratios would be the same.


That's not how it works. The decoy missile has vastly more power per mass available, so it can do whatever it wants, like flips and figure 8s while hovering in place, while the Falcon rocket cannot, and it would plummet down in a fireball if it tried. The comparison is simply irrelevant, like a speedboat to Titanic.
Eikka
not rated yet Jan 20, 2015
"heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible" [1895]... "I have not the smallest molecule of faith in aerial navigation other than ballooning...I would not care to be a member of the Aeronautical Society." [1896] -Lord Kelvin


You're making the association fallacy.

They said Galileo Galilei was wrong - yes, but that doesn't mean you're right, or that your invention should necessarily work.

So youre saying that commercial-scale spaceflight is an impossibility? Thats pretty naive dont you think?


That's a strawman. I might very well think that SSTO planes like the Skylon are viable, but you just didn't bother to ask before jumping to conclusions.

Besides, it's already viable. Has been since the 90's. Just not with re-usable rockets.
Eikka
not rated yet Jan 20, 2015
And 737s land every day without being stripped, dont they?


The Falcon 9 first stage has the power of five 747 jumbojets blasting at full.

The structural loading is hardly comparable, and, the jet is over-engineered to last thousands of flight-hours between inspections. It's stronger than it absolutely needs to be by a factor upwards to 10 in some parts, by design.

That means more mass, which in a space launch rocket will quickly diminish your payload fraction and increases cost to orbit.

It's these sort of balancing acts that make or brake the re-usable launcher. If they need to make it stronger to survive several launches, they also make the payload fraction smaller, and they need to launch it more times to recoup the cost, which means they may need to make it stronger still... etc.
baudrunner
5 / 5 (2) Jan 20, 2015
I don't know why people keep disparaging the space shuttle program, because it was a huge success. Sure, it was expensive, but less so than sending all that ISS hardware up there, with an assembly crew, on conventional lifters. The shuttle engines were re-usable, and that's where most of that expensive technology goes. The X37-B program proves that there's a place for reusable shuttles in the space program.

SpaceX's problems with that attempt at a precision landing on a floating platform, which is the ultimate challenge, were concerned with vector thrusters failing at a critical moment. That's why Elon Musk seemed to almost shrug the accident off. It was not an engineering design problem, just a failure of a part to function as it should, which if it hadn't failed, would have resulted in a successful end to a cool mission.
russell_russell
not rated yet Jan 20, 2015
O.k. O.k.
I see have to replace the barge!
With what?
A floating swimming pool. XXXL.
Just let it do all the hovering antics while over the swimming pool.
After burn out you are just going to have take the last few meters of free fall with a grain of salt.

I am on a budget. Or do you want to me shut up and calculate and send a bill for landings not on water?
russell_russell
not rated yet Jan 20, 2015
Why not motor cut off instead of burn out?
Cause when I savage my baby all those nasty propellants are gone so I can light up on site.
russell_russell
not rated yet Jan 20, 2015
I'll have that cigar.
Now.
Thanks.

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