Yesterday’s launch of the Space X Dragon module supply run to the International Space Station went off without a hitch, sending around three tonnes of scientific experiments, food and other essentials to the orbiting station. However, arguably the bigger news was how well the first booster stage of the rocket was able to come down right on top of the automated barge recovery system. It fell over, but it did technically land.
The last time Space X tried the recovery system of the first stage back in January, the booster came down far too hard because it ran out of hydraulic fluid. That was corrected for this launch and it looks from footage retrieved from the drone barge that the booster did land on its legs, but because it came in with too much sideways movement, it wasn’t able to balance correctly and summarily fell over.
While it could be argued that Space X should simply bring the rocket down directly over the drone ship, called “Just Read the Instructions,” scientists are wary of an engine failure at high altitude, which could send the rocket crashing down into the ship, doing immeasurable damage. Hence why the booster comes down at a bit of an angle and has to correct at the last moment, as seen in the short Vine clip that Space X CEO Elon Musk posted.
Falcon 9 first stage landing burn and touchdown on Just Read the Instructions https://t.co/4Te0BfT2Qn
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 15, 2015
He later went on to quip that when he’d perfected this landing that it was time to treat himself to a Volcano lair. “It’s time.”
Space X has many more Falcon 9 launches planned throughout the rest of the year, so there will be plenty more attempts at landing its booster stage on the barge. Musk expects that by 2016 they’ll have the procedure down so well that they could expect an 80 per cent success rate.
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KitGuru Says: Making the booster stage reusable could save millions of dollars per launch and has the potential to revolutionise space travel by making it far more affordable.