SpaceX launched its nineteenth missile of 19459004 just two days after launching a record of 64 satellites. On this flight, a brand new Falcon 9 launched a Dragon spaceship into orbit at the International Space Station. Unlike Monday's textbook landing was not quite as planned today.
The first stage of the Falcon, the largest and most expensive part of the rocket, should be back on land after the launch of the spacecraft Dragon. But instead of sitting in the middle of SpaceX's designated landing pad, the booster made an unscheduled launch into the Atlantic off the coast of Florida. Footage shared shortly after the incident shows the booster was out of control as it moved toward the countryside.
But what caused the anomaly? SpaceX officials need to investigate the booster to find out, but Elon Musk tweeted shortly after the incident that he suspected that it was a problem with one of the booster's fins that helped stabilize the vehicle, as it falls through the atmosphere. "The Grid Fin hydraulic pump has stalled, and so Falcon landed at sea," tweeted SpaceX founder Elon Musk shortly after the missile landed. "Seems to be undamaged and transmits data. Rescue ship dispatched."
Musk pointed out that it is possible for SpaceX to use the booster after fishing from the sea. Tweeten Used for an internal SpaceX mission. (This may be an allusion to the upcoming launch of one of SpaceX's StarLink Internet satellites.) But others at SpaceX are more prudent. Hans Koenigsmann, the company's vice president of flight reliability, says it's too early to say if the booster is recoverable. The company's salvage fleet was dispatched shortly after takeoff to bring the booster back into port. According to Marine Radio, the fleet secured the booster, but clings to it until they find out how best to get it home.
Today's mishap marks the first time that the Falcon has not landed on solid ground since SpaceX began to recover booster. But it is anything but a failure. The incident instead shows how the rocket should save itself if something goes wrong. After the first stage of the rocket has separated, it performs an air strike to ensure that it points toward land again. Then the rocket performs three different burns to gently settle in the middle of the intended landing zone. First, however, a landing point over water is controlled until the on-board computer systems ensure that everything is working properly.
During a press conference shortly after the failed landing, Hans described the events of the anomaly and described how the fins appear to have a problem that left the missile out of control. The water landing was ultimately gentle, as the rocket engines had successfully stabilized it during the descent. "As much as we are disappointed that we have landed in the water, this shows that the system as a whole knows how to recover itself."
According to Musk, the solution could be to put a backup system in the current one Grid fin hardware to record. "Pump is a one-pronged one, with some landing systems not being redundant as the landing is considered critical to ground security, but not for use ," he added. "
SpaceX has recovered a total of 33 boosters (including today's), and during this landing trial – which included a glittering new booster – did not go as planned, the company will use the flight data to improve future vehicles.