SpaceX CRS-5: A Perfect Liftoff and an Imperfect Landing

It was a case of good news, bad news, good news for SpaceX this early this morning. For NASA however, the news was nothing but good.

This time, and without any drama, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft on the CRS-5 mission lifted off at 4:47:10 from Cape Canaveral’s SLC-40. Dragon deployed successfully and is now on its way to ISS “with nothing amiss.”

As for the first stage, it did not miss either:

and there was some damage


Goes to show you never can tell.  Of each of the possible outcomes; a clean miss, a success or a “hard landing,” the latter seemed to be the least likely. After all, if the booster was able to precisely target the drone ship, a stunning success in its own right, one might have thought the landing would have been the easy part. On the other hand, of the two undesirable outcomes it should be the easiest to correct.

More information may come out during the post launch press conference, and certainly more will over coming days, but based on Musk’s tweets, the news, while disappointing, is still very, very good. (Barely) ten days into 2015, it is becoming cleat that this will be the year of the reusable rocket.

As for NASA, the year is off to a very good start, and the agency can breathe a sigh of relief regarding its supply pipeline to ISS. Once again the two vendor approach taken by the COTS/CRS program is validated, even as it bodes well for Commercial Crew.

This story will be updated after the press conference.

Update: The press conference scheduled for 6:30 AM EST was canceled. Likely due to a distinct lack of press.

Further update:

Two more tweets from Elon Musk suggest a loss of hydraulic fluid for the grid fins may have played a role in the hard landing.

The upcoming flight referenced by Musk is presumably the Air Force/NOAA/NASA launch of the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR). That mission had been scheduled for January 29th, but is considered likely to slip into February.

Posted in: NASA, SpaceX

About the Author:

2 Comments on "SpaceX CRS-5: A Perfect Liftoff and an Imperfect Landing"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. The hard landing scenario isn’t all that unlikely, considering the effects of waves on the vertical motion of the barge. The barge’s thrusters are designed to keep the barge’s horizontal motion to a minimum, but obviously cannot lift hundreds of tons of steel out of the water when the waves recede. Considering that such effects cannot be tested at McGregor, nor at any other land site, I’m gratified that the landing was merely “hard” and not more completely destructive.

Post a Comment