SpaceX’s attempt at creating history didn’t go as planned as it hit the surface of the barge harder than expected.
In company CEO Elan Musk’s own words: “Rocket made it to drone spaceship port, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho.”
The launch wasn’t entire unsuccessful for the fact that the Dragon capsule carrying 5000 pounds of supplies, equipment, science projects and few Christmas treats for astronomers aboard the ISS did make its way to the space station.
The second bit where SpaceX was intending to attempt hard landing of its booster rocket is what didn’t go as planned. “Grid fins worked extremely well from hypersonic velocity to subsonic, but ran out of hydraulic fluid right before landing,” Musk tweeted.
“Ship itself is fine. Some of the support equipment on the deck will need to be replaced…” read one of his other tweets.
Launching spacecrafts into orbit involves the use of booster rockets, but the cost of these rockets make the missions very expensive because there is no way of making sure that these rockets can be used again. Practice till now is to discard the entire rockets – the thing that SpaceX intends to change.
“SpaceX believes a fully and rapidly reusable rocket is the pivotal breakthrough needed to substantially reduce the cost of space access”, reads a statement on SpaceX website.
SpaceX intends to employ commercial model in space flights just like commercial airliners to rapidly reuse the space launch vehicle while also reducing the cost by a hundredfold.
The launch video is available, but the Falcon 9 landing video isn’t available as it was foggy and pitch dark. “Didn’t get good landing/impact video. Pitch dark and foggy. Will piece it together from some telemetry and … actual pieces”, said Musk.
It is not that SpaceX and Musk weren’t entirely prepared for a failure. Earlier the CEO had already predicted a 50/50 chance of a success, but the data that is available through this attempt will allow for more precise calculations and fine tuning of future missions that will pave the way for successful landing.