January 18, 2016

SpaceX satellite launch successful, rocket landing not so much

SpaceX has successfully launched the Jason-3 satellite into orbit, but had less joy with recovering the first stage of the rocket, according to reports from BBC and TechCrunch.

In fairness to the Elon Musk-founded company, the recovery would have been the first ever on a drone ship in the ocean.

Musk tweeted that it was: “Definitely harder to land on a ship. Similar to an aircraft carrier vs land: much smaller target area, that's also translating & rotating.”

He also explained that while the touchdown speed of the rocket was okay, there was a problem with one of the landing legs which caused the rocket to tip over after landing on the ocean barge. It then exploded.

The main goal of the whole occasion, to get the $180 million Jason-3 satellite into orbit, went smoothly, and the attempted rocket recovery to a drone ship was the result of SpaceX being unable to receive “environmental approval” to bring its rocket back to land. Recovering to a drone ship wasn’t really a pioneering experiment that failed embarrassingly.

Nevertheless, viewers watching unstable live footage from the drone ship will have been disappointed to find out, after failing to see the landing due to a rough satellite connection, that the attempt had failed anyway.

But last month, SpaceX managed a historic first controlled return of an orbital stage of a rocket, so everything's all good, Elon Musk! Keep doing you.


Feature Image: SpaceX