After a string of successful ocean landings, SpaceX’s latest Falcon 9 rocket crashed hard right into its drone ship.
Just as the Falcon 9 was touching down on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship, SpaceX’s feed cut out, leaving both those watching at home and the company clueless as to whether or not the rocket had landed safely. The rocket was visible upright on the pad for a moment between the smoke clouds. But something happened (perhaps a tip-over, like we saw earlier this year, or it simply came in too hard or fast), and the rocket was destroyed, according to SpaceX.
SpaceX had chalked up a streak of successful drone ship landings—including a few tough ones from geostationary orbits—so this crash may seem like a step backwards, but that’s not quite the case. Every landing SpaceX has attempted has been slightly different as the company experiments with different orbits and methods. Crashes are nothing new for the company—they’re almost an expected part of the process as the engineers figure out how to adjust those orbits for the highest possible success.
Although this rocket didn’t stick its landing, both satellites attached to the rocket were successfully deployed into space. We’ll update you on just what happened, as we find out the details.
Update 10:15 am: It appears the problem with this landing stems from insufficient thrust from one of the rocket’s three engines. Elon Musk described the problem on Twitter as an “RUD=Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly :)”.
Engineers have apparently already begun working on a solution that would let the other engines compensate for such problems. Musk estimates that the fix should be ready before the end of the year.
Update 10:40 am: Although the rocket may not have emerged from today’s launch, the satellites both did quite nicely. Here’s some lovely footage of the ABS satellite as it heads off into space.
Musk also said that the footage of the crash, which he described as “maybe [the] hardest impact to date”, from the drone ship’s POV is on its way later today.
The drone ship, fortunately, emerged from its encounter unscathed.