SpaceX launches cargo, but fails to land rocket

In this still photo from NASA TV, SpaceX launches its unmanned Dragon cargo ship to the International Space Station—the mission
In this still photo from NASA TV, SpaceX launches its unmanned Dragon cargo ship to the International Space Station—the mission is SpaceX's 16th for NASA, as part of a long-term contract to ferry supplies to space

SpaceX on Wednesday blasted off its unmanned Dragon cargo ship, loaded with supplies, science experiments and food for the astronauts living at the International Space Station but failed to successfully land its booster afterwards.

"We have had a great liftoff," said SpaceX commentator John Insprucker, as the Falcon 9 rocket soared into the sunny, blue sky over Cape Canaveral, Florida at 1:16 pm (1816 GMT), carrying 5,600 pounds (2,500 kilograms) of gear.

The mission was SpaceX's 16th mission for NASA as part of a long-term contract to ferry supplies to space.

The Dragon cargo ship successfully made it to orbit, which was the primary goal of the launch.

But the tall portion of the rocket missed its goal of securing an upright landing on solid ground at Cape Canaveral's Landing Zone 1.

After separating from the second stage, and firing its engines to return to Earth, a video camera on board showed the first stage spinning.

"Grid fin hydraulic pump stalled, so Falcon landed just out to sea," CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter.

"Appears to be undamaged and is transmitting data. Recovery ship dispatched."

Later, Musk posted the full video from on board the booster, showing the rocket spiral, then stabilize, then crash sideways into the water.

"Engines stabilized rocket spin just in time, enabling an intact landing in water! Ships en route to rescue Falcon," he wrote.

It was the first time SpaceX ever failed to land a booster on solid ground, following a string of 12 straight successes.

Ocean platform landings have proven a bit trickier, but SpaceX has managed to stick the landing, whether on land or sea, 32 times in all.

The effort is aimed at reducing the cost of launches by re-using expensive components, instead of jettisoning them in the ocean after each mission.

The rocket was initially meant to take off Tuesday, but was delayed for a day after engineers discovered moldy mouse food in one of the science investigations designed to study the effect of microgravity on the immune system.

The bad food was replaced ahead of Wednesday's launch.

Other experiments among the more than 250 on board include a new kind of mustard green lettuce that astronauts will grow in space.

The Dragon space capsule that flew on Wednesday was used once before, on a supply mission in February 2017.

It should arrive at the space station on Saturday.

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© 2018 AFP

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User comments

Dec 05, 2018
I must admit that I was disappointed when the live feed was cut off. Something was obviously wrong, and I understand the impulse to hide it from the public. But reasonable people understand that what SpaceX is doing is very difficult and lots can go wrong. If this is indeed just a setback on the way to success, why not let fans like me witness the drama of lessons learned? Too much hiding of the truth for the sake of appearances these days.

Dec 05, 2018
Like you and myself, I am sure many people are also disappointed that they cut away from the landing feed. Also a futile effort. There was a video from the ground on youtube less than 10 minutes after the crash. You can't hide these things these days. On the other hand, SpaceX had shared all sorts of crash videos in the past. I was also gratified that Elon tweeted almost immediately that the cut away was a mistake and re-committed to sharing the bad as well as the good.

Dec 05, 2018
schultzy2012---Thanks for the encouraging info.

Dec 05, 2018
Interesting that as it decelerated towards the water, the misaligned grid fins had less and less authority, so the rockets were finally able to stop the spin as velocity went to zero.

Actually, it was a newbie booster which didn't Just Read The Instructions and was confused about landing on an ASDS or well, land. Of Course we Still Love it for its valiant effort, another Space X learning experience. It did accomplish its objective, after all, avoiding a RUD.

Dec 06, 2018
I'm impressed they let the on-board system sort things out, which it did.

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