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SpaceX Launches Load to ISS, Successfully Tests Falcon 9 Over Water 125

mosb1000 (710161) writes "SpaceX is reporting that they've successfully landed the first stage of their CRS3 Falcon 9 rocket over the Atlantic Ocean today. This is potentially a huge milestone for low-cost space flight." In another win for the company, as the L.A. Times reports, SpaceX also has launched a re-supply mission to the ISS.
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SpaceX Launches Load to ISS, Successfully Tests Falcon 9 Over Water

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  • If you read the LATimes link, SpaceX says they believe the first stage recovery was probably not successful, on account of very rough conditions (25' waves - about 8m - where the rocket tried to come to a hover over the water's surface). They were sending ships out to see, but estimated the odds of success at only 40%.

    If anybody has an update on that attempt, please post it!

  • Bah, sorry for the self-reply...

    "Data upload from tracking plane shows first stage landing in Atlantic was good! Flight computers continued transmitting for 8 seconds after reaching the water. Stopped when booster went horizontal. Several boats enroute through heavy seas..." is the latest we've heard. They're calling it a success, though, which is hopeful! I don't know if they were expecting to get more than 8 seconds or not, and whether "booster went horizontal" was expected or not (got hit by a wave, maybe?) - but they know a lot more about what constitutes success than I do.

    Pity about the rough conditions, though. Would have been *awesome* to see the first stage re-light and hover after a real launch. Maybe next time...

  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Saturday April 19, 2014 @12:24AM (#46793163) Journal
    Interesting that a russian naval ship (called a tug, but how many miles off florida coast ? ) was there at the landing site to watch this.
    I think that everybody who continues to knock SpaceX, is realizing that they are all in serious trouble.
  • by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Saturday April 19, 2014 @12:51AM (#46793225)

    They soft landed, that's a success whether they are recovered or not. You didn't expect them to stand upright in the water like a buoy did you?

  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Saturday April 19, 2014 @01:33AM (#46793333)

    I'm curious to know if this first stage had landing gear attached (maybe not because of the additional weight, drag). Also, in the future when they DO try to land it on land, where will they be aiming? If the flight profile of the first stage is mostly vertical then, without much fuel I guess they could return to Florida, otherwise would they be going for a Caribbean island? The Azores or Canary Islands? Africa? I'm sure they've got this figured out, I'm just curious.

    This test did have the landing gear attached and deployed during landing, as the aerodynamics of it are potentially problematic (one of their tests failed when it entered a spin before landing).

    The first stage flight path doesn't seem to be mostly vertical - I'm having a hard time finding solid info, but based on images of the first-stage separation, I'd estimate it to be no more than a quarter of the way across the Atlantic. I do know that their plan is to return the rocket to the launchpad for landing, which wouldn't make much sense if it was much further away by stage 1 separation.

    Their flight path does seem a bit weird, though - of the Space Shuttle abort modes, Return to Launch Site was the riskiest and most difficult, compared to Transoceanic Abort Landing (landing in a European or African site) or Abort to Once Around (doing a full orbit then landing as normal). Either the Falcon is accelerating far faster once they break the atmosphere, or the Space Shuttle accelerated horizontally a lot earlier than it may have needed to.

  • by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Saturday April 19, 2014 @06:02AM (#46793823)

    Even if there isn't much to reuse, there are tremendous advantages to recovering the engines, and having the engineers tear them down to the last nut and bolt. Merlin will end up becoming an incredibly reliable rocket engine -- even more than now.

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor