On Tuesday, the Space Exploration Technology Corporation’s third attempt to maneuver a used rocket booster back to the atmosphere for it to land on a floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast has failed. Previously, the 1st attempt’s failure was due to the returning booster running out of hydraulic fluid and the 2nd attempt’s failure was due to the platform’s incorrect position due to bad weather. Mr. Elon Musk, Chairman and Chief Technical Officer of the closely held corporation had tweeted stating that the 15-story-tall rocket booster of a Falcon 9 rocket has landed too hard for it to survive. The rocket’s returning main stage crashed into a specially equipped barge situated in the Atlantic Ocean less than 30 minutes after blastoff.
Succeeding tweet from Mr. Musk 40 minutes after launch revealed initial indications that the Falcon landed fine but excessive sideward velocity caused it to lean over after landing. The SpaceX Head said experts will be examining the videos of the return for more details.
Tuesday’s event underscored the challenges faced by reusable rockets and the length of time efforts will be exerted before any success can be achieved. The failed return was preceded by the flawless launch of the Falcon9 rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The Falcon9 was carrying an unmanned Dragon cargo capsule for the international space station. The first stage split up as planned several minutes after blastoff to begin its return on its intended platform.
The design of the returning stage’s automated guidance and precision navigation should have slowed the booster to approximately seven feet per second prior to touch down of its jutting legs on the estimated 300-foot long platform. Had it been successful, SpaceX could have made an important move towards frequent and less costly space launches.
The goal that would make it possible for launch providers like SpaceX and its rivals to retrieve, restore, and reuse large parts of the boosters including the expensive propulsion systems is to build up a commercially feasible system of thrust controls and flight commands. Developing such technology would take years, but among the companies, SpaceX seems to be the leader.
Previously, many space authorities have stated that SpaceX (the corporation’s moniker) attempt’s on success could be a significant move in the finances of government and corporate launches. However, reusability would only be important, as many cynics say, if SpaceX can significantly increase its launches to spread over the costs over the company’s launches. As stated by Mr. Howard McCurdy, a space policy expert at American University in Washington, D.C. before the Tuesday’s event, “Reusability comes with a steep price if it’s not done right. Maintenance and upkeep costs will kill you in the long run”.
Mr. George Torres, a former industry executive and author of 2 space books said that reusability is good but it all boils down to the question of how many times the engines can be used and if SpaceX plans to reused the Dragon spacecraft.
Tuesday’s disappointing event for SpaceX came after several political and financial takeovers in the few past weeks. Last January, the company successfully raised about $ 1 billion and settled a lawsuit against U.S. Air Force, which allows SpaceX to begin launching satellites for Pentagon. The company, with its ambitious yet although lacking in funding plan, intends to expand to manufacturing satellites aimed at providing internet service to huge parts of the globe.
SpaceX was the first –ever private entity to successfully launch and place a spacecraft into orbit, the first company to send a capsule to meet with the international space station and the first to deliver to cargo there.