SpaceX's Falcon rocket ditches in water after sending cargo to ISS

Gwen Vasquez
December 6, 2018

Meanwhile, Musk tweeted that the problem was that a "grid fin hydraulic pump stalled, so Falcon landed just out to sea".

The Dragon capsule should reach the orbiting lab on Saturday.

Falcon 9 B1050 seen shortly before a grid fin lost control, throwing the rocket into a near-uncontrollable spin.

SpaceX has 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 land the rocket.

It was SpaceX's sixth outright landing failure and the first since June 2016, ending a string of 32 successful recoveries, 20 on droneships, 11 on land at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and one at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

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SpaceX had planned to land the first stage of the brand-new Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket at a landing zone ashore at Cape Canaveral, but as the rocket descended toward the cape, the live feed from the booster's onboard cameras appeared to show the craft going into some sort of uncontrolled spin. Some landing systems are not redundant, as landing is considered ground safety critical, but not mission critical. Falcon 9 first stages have pulled off more than 30 such touchdowns to date, some on land and some at sea on one of SpaceX's two "droneships". The stage, he noted, continued to work even after tipping over into the water, going through a standard post-landing safing sequence and transmitting data. Musk later revealed that they were cheering the success of a backup plan: the booster "landed", as gently as a towering object can, in the Atlantic Ocean.

- Three days and 3,000 miles apart, SpaceX is aiming for their second launch this week, this time with a cargo flight to the space station. It pops out its four landing legs, rockets toward the ocean's surface, plunges in, then tips over like a felled tree.

The booster may still be reusable, Musk said, indicating on Twitter that the company may use it for an "internal" SpaceX launch. "It knows where buildings are, so it's pretty smart in that aspect", he said of the landing system on the booster. If SpaceX rockets misbehave, that could prompt the agency to perform a safety review and delay those experimental launches.

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

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