SpaceX loses Falcon Heavy center core in fiery explosion during failed landing

James Marshall
April 8, 2020

The gang also conducted spacewalks during the 204-day mission and performed the first in-space editing of DNA. "We're going to see a lot more multi-mission (launches), a lot more of the multiple drop-offs, those kind of things, so it's actually really good that we have such a complex mission on this experimental launch".

It was the first time the military used the world's most powerful rocket, the first nighttime launch for the Falcon Heavy and the first time such a government mission used two SpaceX boosters that have been flown before.

Finally, as they plummeted toward two SpaceX landing pads at the Air Force station, each rocket fired up a single engine, landing legs deployed and both settled to picture-perfect touchdowns in an increasingly familiar display of precision guidance. But due to the complicated mission profile for STP-2, the main booster was travelling very quickly, and that led to problems.

STP-2 had a very interesting payload, featuring some important customers for SpaceX. Those from NASA include a fridge-sized atomic clock to improve navigation of its spacecraft, a pair of satellites hoped to improve communication, and a new demonstrator spacecraft to test out a new peach-colored propellant. This is the most complex mission and deployment sequence yet for a SpaceX launch and it appears to have gone off as intended.

Musk said it was "our toughest rocket launch ever".

After all that effort, Musk came close to cancelling Falcon Heavy as the business case for the rocket waxed and waned and the company continually improved the capability of its workhorse vehicle, the Falcon 9. The cloud with the purple/yellow glow in it is the 2 boosters firing up their engines to slow their forward momentum and begin their burn back towards the landing zones at the cape.

What that means is the SpaceX team will refire the second-stage rocket engine four times to manoeuvre the craft and correctly deploy all payloads before returning to earth.

The "Falcon Nebula." According to photographer Alex Brock, the thin atmosphere at this altitude allowed the exhaust gases to expand more than usual, and the night sky made it stand out.

In order to catch the nose cone, SpaceX fitted a boat dubbed "Ms. Tree" with a large net and literally drove it around the ocean attempting to catch the falling nose cone like an outfielder catches a baseball. The other half will be recovered from the water.

It's a $6 million dollar bill every time one of these fairings is destroyed, so SpaceX is keen to figure out how to re-use them. After breaking apart, the rocket's remaining kerosene and liquid oxygen ignited, producing a relatively small explosion/fire what looked like 100-200 meters away from drone ship OCISLY. It's also the first time an Air Force payload has been launched on a used rocket. Monday's launch will be another spectacle for space fans who are expected to crowd the area west of Orlando.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

Discuss This Article