SpaceX Rocket Survives a Harsh Landing in the Atlantic Ocean

02 February, 2018, 14:19 | Author: Devin Moran
  • A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on January 31. The rocket is carrying a communications satellite for the satellite company SES and the government of Luxembourg

The rocket is set to launch the GovSat-1 satellite to geostationary orbit, said a release. Kicking off the mission around 4:30 p.m. EST on January 31, SpaceX successfully launched GovSat 1 (or SES 16), a satellite that will support secure communications for Luxembourg's military operations. The Falcon 9 used for this mission had visited space before, been refurbished and re-launched again, marking the sixth time SpaceX has recycled one of its boosters. The booster on Wednesday's mission first flew May 1, 2017, to propel a classified National Reconnaissance Office payload toward orbit. More specifically, Elon quickly added that the landing burn attempted by 1032 involved the ignition of three of the booster's nine Merlin 1D engines during landing, whereas all SpaceX landings up to this point have occurred with a single Merlin 1D ignition.

Musk said on Twitter that SpaceX will attempt to tow the rocket back to shore.

It is also likely that the rocket would have less fuel left over to safely return for a landing on SpaceX's drone ships in the ocean since the satellite was being delivered to a particularly high orbit.

But in that time, something rather remarkable happened: A Falcon 9 first stage booster survived its water landing in the Atlantic Ocean.

The successful GovSat-1 mission comes as SpaceX preps for the much-anticipated launch of its massive three-booster Falcon Heavy on 6 February.


"This rocket was meant to test very high retrothrust landing in water so it didn't hurt the droneship", said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. The company has achieved that goal by recovering and reusing a handful of its Falcon 9 rockets.

The Falcon 9 is now used to hoist satellites and supplies to the International Space Station.

There's no video of the attempted landing, but Musk's photo appears to show the rocket lying in the sea intact, which indicates a gentle landing. Usually, only one engine remains active during touchdown operations of Falcon 9 first stage.

The generic term heavy-lift launch vehicle has been used to describe some of the larger and more powerful rockets that have been developed over the past few decades, and the somewhat derivative term super heavy-lift launch vehicle has been used to describe the largest of these.

SpaceX, for all their accomplishments, also has a long history of accidentally blowing up their rockets in experimental test launches. The cost of the satellite is $279 million, and it weighs around 4.5 tons.

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