SpaceX attempts to land rocket booster on barge

SpaceX, a private space transportation company, successfully launched their Falcon 9 rocket on Jan. 10. About ten minutes after launch, SpaceX attempted to recover the rocket’s booster by landing it on a barge.

On the morning of Jan. 10, 2015, a Space Exploration Technologies Falcon 9 rocket launched the Dragon capsule to the International Space Station. But this was no ordinary launch by SpaceX, as it is more commonly known. This rocket had four legs at the bottom of the first stage. In addition, it had four ‘x-wing’ style grid fins. They were going to attempt to recover the first stage by landing it on a barge in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Most rockets are expendable. The Falcon 9 is too, but the first stage was designed to be reusable. SpaceX is attempting to do this by boosting the first stage back to the launch site. In order to get FAA approval to fly back to land, SpaceX has to prove that it can achieve precision landing.

Enter the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship. It is a barge with thrusters to position itself at a certain GPS location. After the first and second stages separated over 60 miles high going 3,000 miles per hour towards the sunrise, the first stage did an about face and re-lit it’s engines to slow itself down and begin to move back towards the ASDS.

This wasn’t shown live on NASA TV, but SpaceX founder, Elon Musk was tweeting updates about the barge landing attempt.

“Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future though,” tweeted Musk, “Ship itself is fine. Some of the support equipment on deck will need to be replaced…”

A few days later, Musk released the photos of the event that showed the barge in the dark of night being illuminated by a source of light rapidly declining in altitude. Finally, you see the first stage coming towards the camera at an angle before slamming onto the football field size deck with most of the debris falling into the ocean.

Musk later explained that the grid fins designed to help steer the rocket towards the ASDS had run out of hydraulic fluid about a minute before landing and lost control.

“Full RUD (rapid unscheduled disassembly) event. Ship is fine minor repairs. Exciting day!” Musk tweeted with one of the pictures.

The next launch with a landing attempt is scheduled for Feb. 9. Musk said that they plan on adding 50 percent more hydraulic fluid to the grid fin systems.

“At least she’d explode for a different reason,” Musk tweeted.

For photos and video of the landing attempt, visit: