SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says the Falcon 9 rocket accomplished all of its primary objectives on today’s launch, placing its payloads in an accurate orbit over Earth’s poles and successfully demonstrating the launcher’s upgraded engines, flight computer and stage separation system.
But two secondary objectives on the flight were not met.
SpaceX programmed the Falcon 9’s first stage to fire its engines two more times after separating from the Falcon 9 upper stage about three minutes after liftoff.
The first burn went well, placing the empty rocket stage on a trajectory back into the atmosphere. Musk said mission control received data from the rocket throughout re-entry, but a second engine restart put the rocket into a spin, causing its engine to prematurely cut off. The stage crash into the Pacific Ocean a few hundred miles south of Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
Going into the flight, Musk put low odds on a successful retrieval of the first stage intact on Sunday’s launch. He told reporters a few minutes ago that recovery crews picked up parts of the Falcon 9’s interstage, engine section and composite overwrapped pressure vessels.
After releasing the mission’s satellite payloads, the Falcon 9’s second stage Merlin 1D engine was supposed to reignite to test its ability to restart in space. But the engine detected a problem during the restart and aborted the burn.
Musk said SpaceX engineers believe they understand the problem and it could be fixed in time for the Falcon 9’s next launch with the SES 8 communications satellite from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The SES 8 mission requires two upper stage burns to put the spacecraft into an oval-shaped geostationary transfer orbit.
Elon Musk tweeted – Between this flight and Grasshopper [reusable rocket] tests, I think we now have all the pieces of the puzzle to bring the rocket back home.
SOURCE – spaceflightnow.com, twitter, youtube
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Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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