Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Compare cell phone plans using Wirefly's innovative plan comparison tool ×
Space Technology

SpaceX Successfully Launches Jason-3 Satellite, Rocket Landing Partial Success (theverge.com) 118

An anonymous reader writes: SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket today carrying the Jason-3 ocean monitoring satellite. "Jason-3 data will be used for monitoring global sea level rise, researching human impacts on oceans, aiding prediction of hurricane intensity, and operational marine navigation," NASA said. Unfortunately Space X reports that the attempt to land the Falcon 9 on a drone platform was only a partial success. According to the company twitter page: "First stage on target at droneship but looks like hard landing; broke landing leg." Update: 01/18 04:16 GMT by S : Here's a brief video of the landing attempt (somewhat loud).
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

SpaceX Successfully Launches Jason-3 Satellite, Rocket Landing Partial Success

Comments Filter:
  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Sunday January 17, 2016 @03:31PM (#51318633) Homepage

    I didn't submit this news because really we barely know anything at the moment. Jason-3 is still awaiting its second burn, and without knowing anything more than "it has a broken leg" I think it's too soon to call the landing a "partial success". The second burn will be happening shortly, and they said we'd get more data about the landing in a few hours.

    Be patient, grasshopper.

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      Jason-3 circularization burn underway.

      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        Second burn completed successfully. Awaiting news of separation.

        • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Sunday January 17, 2016 @03:40PM (#51318667) Homepage

          Confirmation of Jason-3 separation. *Now* we can say that "SpaceX Sucessfully Launches Jason-3 Satellite".

          Now let's wait for news on the landing...

          • Unfortunately, they didn't make the landing. According to Elon via Twitter:

            Definitely harder to land on a ship. Similar to an aircraft carrier vs land: much smaller target area, that's also translating & rotating.

            Also:

            However, that was not what prevented it being good. Touchdown speed was ok, but a leg lockout didn't latch, so it tipped over after landing.

            It will be interesting to see how well they can zero-in on the 'carrier' landing in future flights. When you combine the trans-sonic approach with the chaos of ocean waves, the magnitude of this task is mind boggling. I can't wait. ;-)

            • so they do it a teched up version of how a carrier does it

              about 300 meters out they have they navcom on the platform tell the navcom on the stage to

              "Call the Ball"

              making sure the leg won't collapse would also be smart

    • by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Sunday January 17, 2016 @03:38PM (#51318659) Homepage Journal

      Wait a second. You're saying Slashdot is posting news too fast??? What alternate reality are we in?

    • Looks like second burn went well and payload was successfully deployed. Maybe the OP was just from the (very near) future?

      Calling the landing a "partial success" is probably a very optimistic way of putting it, as I imagine it likely hit the platform too hard (due to the waves?), broke one of the legs, and fell over, possibly with a big boom. Still, it's difficult to say without at least a video.

      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        Indeed, I have trouble picturing it being intact and upright after a (quote) "hard landing" and with a broken leg.

      • by rasmusbr ( 2186518 ) on Sunday January 17, 2016 @03:56PM (#51318733)

        The live stream froze just as a yellow reflection (rocket exhaust most likely) became visible on the surface of the ship, which probably means that the rocket was no more than 50 meters or so from the ship at that time. So it seems plausible that it hit the ship. I imagine SpaceX has recovered footage from the ship by now unless the antenna got hit by debris from the explosion.

        The fuel and the tank is quite fragile and at least one of the engines is extremely hot and located near the fuel tank, so unless the landing is perfect the tank will burst and the fuel will ignite. I expect we'll see some fiery footage within a day or two once they've had time to analyse it internally.

      • Looks like second burn went well and payload was successfully deployed. Maybe the OP was just from the (very near) future?

        Calling the landing a "partial success" is probably a very optimistic way of putting it, as I imagine it likely hit the platform too hard (due to the waves?), broke one of the legs, and fell over, possibly with a big boom. Still, it's difficult to say without at least a video.

        This is why I think that barge landing is pointless, unless it is on a nice still lake, or the barge is 100 percent stabilized. If teh barge is lifting, it can land too hard. If sinking it might be a little better. Just seems like an un-needed complication

        • by mobby_6kl ( 668092 ) on Sunday January 17, 2016 @04:19PM (#51318837)

          This is why I think that barge landing is pointless, unless it is on a nice still lake, or the barge is 100 percent stabilized. If teh barge is lifting, it can land too hard. If sinking it might be a little better. Just seems like an un-needed complication

          Well they aren't doing it just for shits and giggles - landing on the barge requires significantly less fuel than returning all the way to the launch site. This, turn, reduces the payload capacity and increases the cost per kg.

          I do wonder how feasible it would be to build some sort of a hydraulically stabilized landing platform on top of the barge - not only could it compensate for the shitty weather, but also soften the landing if it detected the rocket coming in too fast.

          • by DanielRavenNest ( 107550 ) on Sunday January 17, 2016 @07:38PM (#51319435)

            > I do wonder how feasible it would be to build some sort of a hydraulically stabilized landing platform on top of the barge

            Look up "Sea Launch", which was a partnership between Boeing, Kvaerner A.G. (Norwegian ship and drilling platform builder), and Russian rocket companies. They launched rockets from a converted drilling platform out in the Pacific Ocean.

            A semi-submersible platform like that takes on ballast water to lower the center of mass below the waves, while the platform on top is held *above* the water on columns. The waves can then pass through the columns without moving the platform much, because it's not a solid wall like the side of a ship. The ballast water mass also makes the whole platform more massive and hard to move.

            Right now (or very soon) you will likely be able to pick up drilling platforms for scrap value. With the price of oil so low, expensive ways to extract oil, like fracking and ocean drilling, can't make a profit, so the drilling companies stop doing it, and some of them go bankrupt.

            • You can't sail a drilling platform up to a wharf to unload the rocket, like you can a barge (so your idea would require an extra transfer at sea from platform to barge), nor is it so easy to move around the landing spot to match mission requirements. Having said all that, if barge landings turn out to be sufficiently haphazard, your idea may be economical.

              • by 12dec0de ( 26853 )

                Errm.. the type that DanielRavenNest was taking about (a semi-submersible) you CAN drive up to a dock. Its deck may be a bit higher than the "Just Read the Instructions", but thats what dock side cranes are for.

                • Thanks, that's great.

                  I wonder why SpaceX didn't start with this design?

                  • Cost. Drilling or production rigs are a couple of magnitudes more expensive than the barge they use now. As it seems to be, almost sort of, working, there's no need to spend that much extra. They're trying to be the cheaper alternative to the likes of the ULA, remember? ;-) (You can always buy a bigger one later, but if you start with too big, then that's sunk cost).

                    (The ULA OTOH would probably have bought two brand new off shore platforms, ice rated ones, and gold plated them. Just because... ;-))

          • by bored ( 40072 )

            Right, so why not pick somewhere that has land down range?

            I suspect that is part of the selection of south texas as a launch site. Launch it from texas, land it in florida.

            • by Rei ( 128717 )

              Generally, having land downrange is considered a bug, not a feature. It makes permitting very hard because nobody likes the concept of half a million kilograms of explosive fuel and oxidizer along with tons of shrapnel-aluminum skin and big heavy engines landing in their town in the event of failure where the self-destruct mechanism doesn't do its job.

              That said, yes, Florida is probably enough downrange so as not to be a major source of concern. Still, I'd think it would be too far for Falcon 9 boosters,

        • by TheGavster ( 774657 ) on Sunday January 17, 2016 @07:07PM (#51319339) Homepage

          I also thought that going back to barge landings seemed like an unnecessary complication, as I was under the impression that the reason the first two attempts were at sea was because that proof-of-concept was needed to get permits for a ground landing. Today during the webcast, though, they clarified that for polar orbits such as this, they need to launch from Vandenburg in California, and there isn't a convenient piece of ground to land on.

          • by catchblue22 ( 1004569 ) on Sunday January 17, 2016 @10:02PM (#51319993) Homepage

            The latest tweets [twitter.com] from Musk indicate that on reading the data, the landing was not "hard". Apparently one of the legs failed to lock. Also it landed 1.3m from the center.

            Elon Musk @elonmusk 6h6 hours ago

            Definitely harder to land on a ship. Similar to an aircraft carrier vs land: much smaller target area, that's also translating & rotating.

            Elon Musk @elonmusk 6h6 hours ago

            However, that was not what prevented it being good. Touchdown speed was ok, but a leg lockout didn't latch, so it tipped over after landing.

            Most of the posts in this discussion are based on incomplete information.

  • The rocket clearly has no sea-legs. ;-)

    It's curious though, that the only really successful landing was on land. I always thought it was because it is so much more difficult, getting to land on a small surface, bouncing on the waves, but when I read the actual papers on it on the site of SpaceX itself, it seemed it never had anything to do with it. It were things like: to few fuel, or a computer-glitch that caused a delay in steering, etc.

    Yet...once again, it goes wrong on the drone/barge. Are they just ext

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      Even if we assume a perfectly stable platform, the fact that the drone ships are so much smaller than the ground landing pad means that the rocket has to do much more precise corrections to ensure that they land on it.

      We'll find out soon enough what happened here.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        But we've seen that after the first two landing attempts it has no problem landing on a dime. The barge moving up and down however is a little trickier to predict.

      • Smaller perhaps, but if you watch the on-land successful return, they hit the bullseye, so I doubt the size is the issue.

        Pitching & rolling, and a varying vertical location seem to be harder problems, plus they rocket was an earlier version that may have been less capable than the previous flight.

        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          It did hit the bullseye, but it didn't have to.

          Regardless, we now know that this incident was due to "Touchdown speed was ok, but a leg lockout didn't latch, so it tipped over after landing." The question is why the leg didn't latch.

    • The previous times that they have attempted to land on a drone ship have all failed due to failures that happened earlier in the descent, so they haven't been able to test how the touchdown itself will work at sea, at least not before today.

  • New tweet from Musk, but no new news:

    Definitely harder to land on a ship. Similar to an aircraft carrier vs land: much smaller target area, that's also translating & rotating.

    • Actual update! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rei ( 128717 ) on Sunday January 17, 2016 @04:17PM (#51318827) Homepage

      Oooh, actual news:

      However, that was not what prevented it being good. Touchdown speed was ok, but a leg lockout didn't latch, so it tipped over after landing.

      Great to have the update. Not so great for whatever people were in charge with making, prepping, and inspecting the legs ;) Unless it was a design flaw.

      I guess we have a new question now - why it didn't lock.

      • What I wonder is, since it is already landing on a relatively small spot, why can't they set up the ship to catch it and prevent it from toppling over? A system of cables like the one used for catching the Ryan X-13 Vertijet should not be impossible.
      • This was the last launch of v1.1 of the Falcon 9. As I understand it, v1.2 (sometimes called v1.1 Full Thrust) has upgraded landing legs. In either case, I would not call this a failure. The payload was placed into orbit. The touchdown speed was in fact normal. For some reason, one landing leg didn't lock. The landing is considered an experiment anyways. Isn't it good to do experiments? Don't you learn from them?

  • After further data review, stage landed softly but leg 3 didn't lockout. Was within 1.3 meters of droneship center

    úff....

  • He gets to claim the first to land one on soil, maybe he could try it on water and get bragging rights to water too. Billionaire problems.

  • 4 legs look not very stable. If one leg failed, the rocket would fall. Why not 6 - 8 legs?
  • Was on Ocean Avenue this morning for today's launch, and although you didn't see the rocket go up this time (too foggy), the thing that made me the happiest was all the 20 year old people out there today (a lot from SpaceX as from their jackets) watching the event also. Ton's more people out there today than an average launch there! I am so glad at least there is a new generation of people who are genuinely interested in space, the development of new space technology, and working for a place which they ar

  • I note some are saying it makes sense to let return the whole booster/first stage, and that the center of gravity is at the bottom anyway, so it makes sense to go for the whole packet.. but I dispute that.

    Purely speaking from an economic standpoint, it would also make sense to do things differently.
    One could also just go for the most expensive part, which are the engines and avionics, and, depending on how you manage to retrieve them, it could actually be better. This isn't really all that far-fetched. Aria

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Re 'Purely speaking from an economic standpoint, it would also make sense to do things differently."
      Have a look at the other ideas. Cheaper, more smart to get the mission done, much less complex and they could offer more up in space with what could be moved up from earth.
      The US has always had a fixation with a bring back down option. Why would the US demand a soft, safe land return?

      A few ideas about burn up or public ocean return got offered and got rejected.
      In the back of the US military industrial
      • by tsotha ( 720379 )

        They had to "while [offer] the military large cargo up and down options" because the only way they could make the numbers sort of work when they sold it to Congress was to assume the shuttle would do all US launches. It was a raid on the Air Force's space and missile systems budget. The Air Force was livid, too, since it was obvious NASA would never be able to deliver.

      • The key element is cost/speed of turnround. The fuel tanks in a first stage may not be very expensive, but hooking up and testing new tanks will take time, and then checking the integration takes more time. SpaceX are aiming for a model where there is not much more to do that pump in fuel, a cursory visual inspection and ask the avionics to self-check. Engines would need a full inspection every so many firings. If they can pull this off it almost has to be cheaper than any model involving more reintegration

        • It wouldn't take more time than for any other module or stage to be connected, which is always the case, with rockets who have 2-3 stages (which are the vast majority of rockets).

          The extra time and efort needed, compared to everything else, would be minimal. It's hardly a strong rebuttal, just like saying "it will take spaceX more time to check the tanks out too". As long as you can keep refurbishing costs low, the testing and hooking up are trivial costs compared to all the rest.

          • Fair enough. You're effectively increasing the stage count by 1 (although the extra stage has no engines) so you'll need to pay the mass for the connectors between the engine stage and the fuel tank stage, and the structural elements needed to make the two stages independently handleable.

            I guess the next few years will tell us which approach best suits todays materials, engines, fuels and building techniques. Should be interesting.

            • My thoughts exactly.

              A lot of people react like being stung by a wasp by my post.

              It's like I said I despised Elon Musk and SpaceX or something, while I'm a fervent supporter of him/it, in fact. I think they have done great things.

              I'm just saying there can be made a good, and perhaps even better, (economical) case for other systems like that of Adeline, compared to the whole-1st-stage retrieval. The main problem being the extra fuel. No so much because of the cost of the fuel, as some misinterpret and don't g

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      Which is why we do that with airplanes, right? ;)

      • See my response to catchblue22.

        Do note it's a comparison between SpaxeX' first stage return and something like Adeline. Nothing more, nothing less. If airplanes would have the same cost-benefit considerations as rockets, then yes, we would do that with planes too.

        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          The whole point of what SpaceX is doing is to make the economics like those of airplanes. They want airplane-like economics. Arianespace is seeking economics that would never work out with airplanes.

          And yes, the engines and electronic systems on an airplane are way more expensive than the fuselage.

          • Yes, but that was not the contention I made. AS LONG AS the economics are not similar to that of airplanes - and frankly, without systems similar to Skylon, where you actually use the air in the atmosphere, you'll never get there - the question remains what is the most economical. And if you compare the first stage of spaceX with something like Adeline - which was what I compared - then you can definitely make an economic (better) case for the latter.

            One can argue it's only a short-term or mid-long term bet

            • by Rei ( 128717 )

              Yes, but that was not the contention I made. AS LONG AS the economics are not similar to that of airplanes

              Which, according to the contention that I just made, if SpaceX is right then they will be like airplanes in the near-to-mid term. Pointing out that they're not like airplanes at this exact second is meaningless.

              and frankly, without systems similar to Skylon, where you actually use the air in the atmosphere, you'll never get there

              Nonsense. Propellant is cheap. The propellant cost to orbit is a cou

              • No, but using capital letters stresses the importance of what you want to convey.

                Anyway, you're missing the point.

                The point was and is NOT (stressing this) that SpaceX might or might not make rocketry 'like airplanes' in the mid- or longterm (which, after all, even you can't know for sure they'll succeed), but that the current system of having the FIRST STAGE (stressing this again) of a rocket coming back by using their fuel, compared to a system like adeline, is less economical advantageous.

                I'm not sure wh

            • And if you compare the first stage of spaceX with something like Adeline - which was what I compared - then you can definitely make an economic (better) case for the latter.

              Yes, but you're comparing something that is currently flying to something that has absolutely no flight hardware developed. Adeline is just a dream in some CAD designer's mind at this point. Once they actually develop something (they are saying 2025 for first flight, so count on 2030 or later) then you can make comparisons but until then there is nothing to compare.

              • Partially true. But I'm sure Arianespace had quite some people calculating it, so it's not like it sucked out of their thumb or comes out of the blue.

                It's like some here compare rocketry 'like airplanes' with that of Adeline: that's just a dream too.

                My only point was, that there could be made a good case for other systems, like adeline, that were economically more beneficial. As far as one can read the arguments (http://www.space.com/29620-airbus-adeline-reusable-rocket-space-tug.html), that seems to me to

              • Yes, but you're comparing something that is currently flying to something that has absolutely no flight hardware developed. Adeline is just a dream in some CAD designer's mind at this point. Once they actually develop something (they are saying 2025 for first flight, so count on 2030 or later) then you can make comparisons but until then there is nothing to compare.

                To be fair, they do have a scale model flying. [I wonder where SpaceX will be in ten years, considering that they went from zero to earth landing in under 14 years.]

                • Indeed.

                  Well, anyhow, I don't know why some people react like being stung by a bee for pointing out there could be better (in the economical sense) ways of doing things than the current system SpaceX used. Is this fanboism? I mean, *I* am a fan of Musk and spaceX too, but not to the point of being blind to other things.

                  It is as you say: who knows where SpaceX will be next decade. The major issue now, is the way they recuperate it (by using their engines and thus burning loads of fuel). It's quite possible th

    • Purely speaking from an economic standpoint, it would also make sense to do things differently. One could also just go for the most expensive part, which are the engines and avionics, and, depending on how you manage to retrieve them, it could actually be better.

      Yeah, I hear the engines and avionics are the most expensive part of a 747. Who don't we just ditch the fuselage after every flight, and keep the engines and avionics. Would that make economic sense?

      You sound like a ULA shill.

      • That would be an Arianspace-shill, if I were a shill, since Adeline is of the EU space-program (by airbus). ;-)

        I'm not certain why you're being so defensive. I merely pointed out that, if you compare the projects of having the whole first stage come back, and an Adeline-esque approach, the latter seems to have an economic advantage.

        It doesn't mean I'm not a proponent of re-usability, but if you're going to invoke that sort of analogy, you'd have to compare it to something like Skylon, with its sabre-engines

    • Ask yourself if throwing away everyting but the engines from a Boeing 787 after each landing would make your airplane ticket cheap or not.
      There would be no air planes at all on this earth if that solution was used for air travel.
      Space-X is aiming for rapid reuse to drive costs down to a fraction of what they are today. Just saving the engines is not a solution if you have that goal.
  • One of the first things a pilot learns when coming in to land, is to have "3 in the green",
    which are the indicator lights for each of the landing gear legs to be down and
    locked. If not, you abort the landing.

    In this case, abort was not an option ...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Here's the video of the landing :https://www.instagram.com/p/BAqirNbwEc0/ [instagram.com]

    The rocket made a near perfect landing, even better than the last one. It must be so frustrating for SpaceX team to fail because of something like this.

    • Wow, the leg was the only hangup. They were probably so focused on solving what was assumed by everyone else to be impossible, actually landing a nearly empty rocket stage in a predetermined location, that someone failed to do some basic checks/engineering on the one item that everyone assumed would be no problem, some simple landing legs.

  • In the last discussion someone wrote that there is almost no fuel inside while it is landing. I see that there is a lot of fuel to explode even after landing.

    If it deviates from a course while landing (what a hundred or two of kilometers for such a vehicle) and falls on a densely populated are, the damage may be significant. A parachute landing of an empty parts looks safer to me.
    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      The Shuttle SRBs were parachute landings. They landed at nearly highway speeds. It's hard to parachute land a gigantic, fragile object and have it be intact. And seriously, parachutes are way more likely to go offtrack than engine-guided landings.

      • by Max_W ( 812974 )
        Smart parachute technology is developing too.

        The problem with a rocket fuel explosion is that its detonation could burn out oxygen in an area, and there could be as a result unpredictable pressure fluctuations, which could hurt humans. Let alone the risk of starting a fire. Obviously, for a landing they keep quite an amount of fuel in reserve. It is impossible to land an aircraft with zero fuel exactly.

        In my opinion, it is safer to burn all the fuel high in the air and use the abundant clean energy of
        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          Slow means big parachutes.
          Big parachutes means heavy.
          Heavy on a first stage means "no payload fraction to orbit".

          A rocket explosion will not "burn out oxygen in an area"; rockets have their own oxidizer, in roughly stoichometric ratios with their fuel.

          You cannot burn 100% of your propellant, the tanks do not completely drain.

        • It is impossible to land an aircraft with zero fuel exactly.

          Sadly enough, pilots continue to do so - with all-too-often fatal results.

  • I want to congratulate E.M. on the near thing. I see a lot of discussion on whether ./ is full of fanboys or whether the legs are shite.

    You are all missing the main point of success: do any of you remember seeing such a rate of launches? Ever?

    Who cares if a few of them tip over. Just get better on the next try.

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      Indeed. Don't like the result of this launch? Just wait a couple weeks. ;)

      Seriously, that was a beautiful landing. If that leg had latched that rocket would be being offloaded right now.

  • It seems there is no better technology to fly to the Space as the one developed at Baikonur in 1957 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] . Get over it, and just keep copying what the Great Engineers and Scientists built. It was not patented.
    • It seems there is no better technology to fly to the Space as the one developed at Baikonur in 1957 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] . Get over it, and just keep copying what the Great Engineers and Scientists built. It was not patented.

      There is certainly much to be proud of in the old Soviet space program, but I'm not sure any of that is contained in the article you linked to, which seems to be about the Baikonur Cosmodrome itself. Most of the article is a history of how they decided where to put it, and a list of the exact coordinates of a bunch of individual launch pads. There's not a lot of technology mentioned in that article, unless you consider latitude and longitude a technology.

      If you're suggesting that a modern space program sho

      • by Max_W ( 812974 )

        ... the old Soviet space program, but I'm not sure any of that is contained in the article you linked to, which seems to be about the Baikonur Cosmodrome itself. ... a modern space program should exclusively use 1950's technology...?

        Baikonur was an international effort, people of many nationalities worked there. I was a student of a mathematician who participated in the calculation of the first Earth's artificial satellite orbit in 1957. And I saw on TV the SpaceX's team chanting: "USA, USA,...", after a partial success last time.

        Trust me, these people will never do any innovation even remotely in the league of what was done in 50s at Baikonur. Those engineers and scientists, who really did it in 50s, worked for humanity, for scien

If you can't understand it, it is intuitively obvious.

Working...