SpaceX launches satellites but fails to recover rocket

Space X's Falcon 9 rocket lifts off on April 8, 2016
Space X's Falcon 9 rocket lifts off on April 8, 2016
SpaceX successfully launched two satellites into orbit on Wednesday, but failed in an attempt to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket undamaged on a barge in the Atlantic.

The rocket apparently malfunctioned some 330 feet (70 meters) off the ground and was in flames when it reached the platform on the powered —known as a drone ship—live images via a SpaceX webcast showed.

SpaceX chief Elon Musk later confirmed the failure on Twitter.

"Ascent phase & satellites look good, but booster rocket had a RUD on droneship," he wrote, using an acronym for "rapid unscheduled disassembly," or explosion.

The rocket shook the barge when it landed, causing the ship's camera to freeze.

The final images showed the craft standing upright, enveloped in flames and thick smoke.

The rocket earlier successfully boosted into a communications for the French firm Eutelsat and another for Bermuda-based ABS.

The launch from Florida's Cape Canaveral took place at 10:29 am (1429 GMT) and the satellites deployed around 30 minutes later.

It was SpaceX's sixth launch of the year.

Wednesday's failure ends a recent streak of landing successes.

The California-based company has successfully landed the first stages of its Falcon 9 rockets three times—twice on water and once on land.

Musk wants to revolutionize the launch industry by making rocket components reusable, much the same way as commercial airplanes.

Expensive parts are currently jettisoned into the ocean after each launch.

SpaceX is next set to launch a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA next month.


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Jun 15, 2016
Doesn't look too good.

If there's even a small chance of failure that depends on the rocket itself - say 2% or 1/50 per launch - that chance grows to slightly less than 20% or 1/5 over 10 launches. That is to say, every fifth rocket will fail within 10 launches.

If the chance of failure is very high to start with, say 10%, then 2/3 of the rockets will fail

Then there's also the chance for random faults that don't depend on the rockets themselves, but on the weather and other variables. If it takes 12 launches per engine to make the scheme profitable, there's a very very narrow margin for error and SpaceX has a long way still to get there.


Jun 15, 2016
@Eikka I don't agree, in this project probabilities are constantly evolving. Each crash is used to learn and eliminate a potential crash cause. That was also what made aviation safe. What is a concern is if a known problem repeats unscheduled , which has not happened to SpaceX by now. They are in the right path

Jun 15, 2016
Three out of four's not bad for something as touchy as this. I agree with @jav: I wonder what they'll learn.

Jun 15, 2016
They get paid for successful launches, not successful landings. GS orbit injection is pushing the F9's capability to the limit, nothing was lost, much was gained.

Jun 16, 2016
They landed 4 first stages now. 3 on a drone ship ("Of Course I Still Love You") and 1 one land (last December).

Jun 16, 2016
@Eikka I don't agree


Agree with what? That the margin for error is very small if they intend to succeed in recycling the rockets?

I accidentally pressed 1 star. Ignore that.

Jun 16, 2016
It was a dual satellite lunch to geostationary orbit, which is the most difficult case, with too little fuel remaining to slow down the rocket . Now they have learned the limits. For this kind of missions they will need a more efficient engine. More efficient engines are perfectly possible, even with traditional technology ( Shuttle engines for example) but they are simply too expensive for one use. The trick is to start using them when the other crash causes are fully known and prevented , as anticipating to it each "rapid disassembly" would be very costly. Same about using more lighter materials like titanium, graphen, .. They can compensate for carrying extra fuel for reusability, but are expensive and they don't want to use them until the landing process is made safe enough.

Jun 16, 2016
Doesn't look too good.

If there's even a small chance of failure that depends on the rocket itself - say 2% or 1/50 per launch - that chance grows to slightly less than 20% or 1/5 over 10 launches. That is to say, every fifth rocket will fail within 10 launches.


I'm not sure why you think this doesn't look good. These are rockets parts that would normally be lost in their entirety. If we can save even 20% of them for reuse, then we are looking very very good.

Maybe I am misunderstanding your point?

Jun 17, 2016
So it looks like it ran out of fuel just before touch down, so close! SpaceX are really pushing the envelop with this!

Jun 17, 2016
I'm not sure why you think this doesn't look good. These are rockets parts that would normally be lost in their entirety. If we can save even 20% of them for reuse, then we are looking very very good.

20% is probably not good enough. The rocket - being more complex - does cost more than the 'traditional' designs. It also has to carry fuel and landing gear for the landing maneouver which lowers the payload-to-weight ratio.
Still, they have demonstrated that they can do it, and with experience I'd be surprised if safe landings don't become the norm. I don't know at how many reuses the thing becomes economical (I'd guess at 3-4 per rocket)

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