SpaceX has released the first video of the spectacular, though not-quite-successful, attempt to land the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket on the landing platform of their drone ship. This ambitious attempt, last Saturday, January 10, 2015, marked huge progress in terms of their ability to bring the rocket down on a precise point. In previous attempts, the closest they’d come to hitting their mark was 10 km (6.2 miles). The company’s goal is to learn to land the rockets first on the ship, and eventually on dry land, so that they can be re-used on future missions.
This attempt was the first trial for the rocket’s new stabilizing fins, which worked perfectly at controlling the rocket’s aim … until they ran out of hydraulic fluid and lost power right before the landing. The rocket did, indeed come down on the ship, but it was unbalanced and made a not-so-graceful landing.
Still, the ship was largely unharmed. It’s in for some minor repairs, and SpaceX has announced that they plan another attempt in two to three weeks. The next rocket will launch with 50% more hydraulic fluid in the stabilizing fin system, so it should have plenty to get the job done.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted, “Full RUD (rapid unscheduled disassembly) event. Ship is fine minor repairs. Exciting day!” and “Next rocket landing on drone ship in 2 to 3 weeks w way more hydraulic fluid. At least it shd explode for a diff reason.”
Here’s hoping it doesn’t explode for a different reason! Stay tuned for further developments!