SpaceX on Wednesday (Dec 5) 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. Dragon got up and out as planned, fulfilling the day's primary mission objective.
The Falcon 9 booster splashed into the water some 2 miles (3 km) off the coast from the SpaceX landing zone. The sight triggered a mixture of anxious "oohs" and "aahs" from SpaceX employees who were watching, then the booster's video feed cut out from the broadcast.
"It looks like what happened is some malfunction with the grid fins", he said.
Christmas turkey rocketed toward the International Space Station on Wednesday, along with cranberry sauce, candied yams and the obligatory fruitcake.More news: Facebook accused of giving access to users’ data
CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter soon after the breathtaking loss of control and expected landing time, stating that the SpaceX team now pegged the failure on a grid fin's stalled hydraulic fin, which ultimately caused the wild spinning seen in the webcast.
It's been a busy time for Elon Musk and SpaceX, lately.
Hypersonic grid fins help the booster steer its way back for a precision touchdown.
"Pump is single string". "Some landing systems are not redundant, as landing is considered ground safety critical, but not mission critical", he wrote. "Given this event, we will likely add a backup", Musk tweeted.
Musk also addressed the video dropout in another tweet, calling the webcast cutaway a mistake. The footage shows that the first stage actually stabilized itself at the very end, hitting the water with a nice, vertical posture (but then quickly toppling onto its side with a big splash).More news: Tom Cruise's Impassioned Twitter Plea May Solve A Common Problem
Altogether, the company has recovered 32 boosters following liftoff - 33 once this one is towed back, said Hans Koenigsmann, a SpaceX vice-president.
"It's really awesome how it stopped rotating at the very end as the landing legs come out", Koenigsmann said. The boosters also "know" to avoid buildings even if they do somehow stray onto a non-targeted patch of land.
While the first stage booster did not land as intended, the fact that it survived the descent is no small feat.
"Public safety was well protected here", he told reporters. However, 7 minutes and 25 seconds after the launch, the first stage began tumbling uncontrollably towards the surface. Musk noted via Twitter. The company will study the first stage and its data in depth to make sure the cause of today's landing anomaly is understood. "I think it's too early to say" how it can best be fixed, he said.More news: Doug Baldwin happy Seahawks paid tribute to Richard Sherman in TD celebration
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