SpaceX suffers 'bummer' landing as rocket's first-stage booster crashes on re-entry

James Marshall
December 6, 2018

In the background, viewers could still hear the team on-console making callouts as the rocket's landing burn started, culminating in a call for the landing team to "move to contingency procedure [s]", the only SpaceX affirmation that something went wrong. The booster toppled over but remained afloat, and SpaceX was sending out boats to tow the stage back to the harbor at neighboring Port Canaveral. Recovered boosters are inspected, refurbished and flown again - part of the company's plan to slash the cost of spaceflight via rapid and repeated reuse. CEO Elon Musk says the livestream should not have cut away from the failure.

The primary mission was an undeniable hit, but this time around, SpaceX's attempt to have the Falcon 9's first-stage booster touch down on a landing pad was a miss.

"It looks like what happened is some malfunction with the grid fins", he said. Although it is nearly without a doubt too early to actually know if the booster is in good enough condition to ever fly again, Musk seemed to directly suggest that it could eventually relaunch in support of an "internal SpaceX mission", basically either Starlink or tech development.

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

"Ships en route to rescue Falcon", he tweeted. The early Falcon 9 rocket stages proved that the model was viable, but the Block 5 is capable of being used up to 100 times before finally needing to be disposed of.

"Pump is single string". "Some landing systems are not redundant, as landing is considered ground safety critical, but not mission critical", he wrote.

The arrival of the Dragon spacecraft will also be the subject of a live webcast. Musk admitted that was a mistake, and vowed to "show all footage, good or bad". This was to be the twenty-seventh time that SpaceX had managed to successfully retrieve a first stage booster. The change may simply have resulted from landing-leg deployment, he said. Falcon 9 first stages are outfitted with targeting algorithms that keep them offshore until the very end of their touchdown sequences, when it's clear that everything is working well, he said. "Even if it is on land it avoids buildings".

"So, public safety was well-protected here", Koenigsmann said. That mission will feature a droneship landing, like several previous Iridium launches. Musk noted via Twitter. The first-stage rockets have a 84 percent recovery rate, according to the company.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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