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Surprising Science

SpaceX Has Successful Launch But Misses Experimental Rocket Landing

After a successful launch of a Dragon spacecraft this morning, SpaceX attempted to land its reusable Falcon 9 rocket on a sea platform but ran out of fuel prior to touchdown.

The International Space Station is set to be resupplied on Monday by a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched earlier today at Cape Canaveral. Unfortunately, SpaceX’s secondary objective — landing its experimental reusable F9 rocket on a sea platform — was less successful. SpaceX CEO (and Big Think expert) Elon Musk explained that his company got “close, but no cigar.”

Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 10, 2015

Grid fins worked extremely well from hypersonic velocity to subsonic, but ran out of hydraulic fluid right before landing.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 10, 2015

Upcoming flight already has 50% more hydraulic fluid, so should have plenty of margin for landing attempt next month.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 10, 2015

One of the most expensive aspects of space travel is that hardly any of the materials used to launch rockets -- including the rockets themselves -- get reused. SpaceX is trying to change that by developing the capability to recycle rockets after each launch. To do this, the rockets must be able to land themselves back on the ground. Musk had given today's experimental landing 50-50 odds so no one is too shocked to see that more work still has to be done. That there's such a short turnaround between tests means that this temporary hiccup could be ancient history as soon as a month from now.

Read more at Reuters

Photo credit: SpaceX


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