HISTORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS AND USED WITH AUTHORIZATION
Two days after the successful launch from California, SpaceX launched another Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday, carrying a Dragon cargo ship loaded with 5,660 pounds of materials and materials to the International Space Station.
But an attempt to recover the first stage of the booster ended with a failure when a failure of the hydraulic system caused the booster to rotate and tilt rapidly around its long axis during its final descent. As a result, the rocket landed well off target, settling in a gentle, vertical "landing" in the Atlantic Ocean, just east of the launch site.
The rocket then tilted, splashing horizontally and remaining intact. SpaceX's founder, Elon Musk, tweeted that the hydraulic problem has affected the movement of the four titanium grille "fins", used to steer and to maintain orientation when the booster first falls on the tail.
"Pump is a single string", tweeted Musk, which means the system does not have a backup. "Some landing systems are not redundant, because landing is considered to be fundamental to ground safety, but it is not critical to the mission, given this event, we will probably add a backup pump and lines."
The engines have stabilized the rocket launch just in time, allowing an intact landing in the water! Ships en route to save Falcon. pic.twitter.com/O3h8eCgGJ7
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) 5 December 2018
A few minutes later, he tweeted the video captured by a camera aboard the rocket.
"The engines have stabilized the rocket launch just in time, allowing an intact landing in the water! Ships en route to save Falcon," he said.
It was the sixth failure of SpaceX's absolute landing and the first since June 2016, putting an end to a series of 27 successful recoveries. The company's overall record stands at 32 successful recoveries: 11 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, one at the Vandenberg Air Base in California and 20 offshore dronesh.
The new Falcon 9 "block 5" stages are designed to fly dozens of times with minimal renewal between launches, a key element in the company's drive to reduce launch costs by recovering and recovering recovered stages.
The stage launched Monday from California was making its third flight, the first for SpaceX. But the rocket launched Wednesday by Cape Canaveral was brand new. It is still unclear what went wrong with the grid or if the accident will prompt the Air Force to reconsider the SpaceX authorization to land in the Air Force station.
But the landing system is designed with the safety of personnel and ground facilities. The rocket guidance system initially points to an off-shore "impact point" and only moves the target on the landing platform during a final launch of the rocket and only after verifying that all systems are functioning properly.
Tracking shot of Falcon Water landing pic.twitter.com/6Hv2aZhLjM
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) 5 December 2018
During Wednesday's landing, the on-board computer recognized the grid fin problem and never moved the impact point to the ground during the ignition of the final engine.
"The important point here is that we have an on-board security function that ensures that the vehicle does not go ashore until everything is fine, and that worked perfectly," Hans Koenisgman, vice president of SpacerX, told reporters flight construction and reliability. "The vehicle was kept away from anything in which it could also represent the least risk to the population or property.
"Public security was well protected here," he added. "As much as we are disappointed by this landing or landing in the water, this shows that the system generally knows how to recover from some malfunctions."
The mission started at 13:16. EST (GMT-5) when the nine Merlin 1C engines of the Falcon 9 came on with a roar and a torrent of burning exhaust, promptly pushing the 230-foot booster away from the launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Station .
The take-off arrived one day late due to the time needed to replace the moldy food bars in a habitat that houses 40 rodents transported to the station for medical research. But it was clear to sail on Wednesday and the countdown dropped to zero without interruption.
At the time of take-off, the space station was flying 250 miles above the Indian Ocean south of Australia, but the plane of its orbit was sweeping across the Cape Canaveral air station while the Earth rotated under it. The Falcon 9 dropped to the northeast directly into that orbital plane to allow the planned meeting.
The engines of the first stage went out and the bottom of the rocket fell two minutes and 23 seconds after takeoff. The single engine that powers the second stage is lit by a six-minute 18-second fire to complete the ascent into orbit.
The first stage, meanwhile, flipped over and restarted three engines to reverse the route and return to Florida. Another burn, four minutes later, slowed the level to bring the descent back into the thicker lower atmosphere.
The long-range tracking cameras provided spectacular views as the stage lowered to Cape Canaveral first. But the television images of a rocket-mounted camera suddenly showed that it was spinning around its long axis.
The central engine of the rocket started as usual for landing and the landing legs of the booster sank at low altitude as they would in a normal landing. It is interesting to note that the deployment of the landing leg seems to have slowed down the rocket's rotation just before the impact on the ocean.
While the landing was unsuccessful, the main objective of Wednesday's mission was to deliver the Dragon cargo ship in the correct orbit. And Falcon 9 did just that.
If all goes well, the spacecraft will reach the station on Saturday morning, pulling up to about 30 feet and then standing up while the station commander Alexander Gerst, who operates the laboratory robot arm, locks onto a gripping device.
The flight controllers of the Johnson Space Center in Houston will take over at that point, by operating the remote control arm to pull the Dragon into mooring at the Harmony module's Ground door forward of the station.
On-board scientific equipment includes an experiment to test robotic spacecraft supply techniques using ultracold cryogenic propellants, another tool that will use laser beams to measure tree heights globally to determine the effects of deforestation on the environment. processing of carbon dioxide and another to develop wound dressings that improve drug delivery.
Yet another experiment will study the development of retinal implants designed to restore the vision of patients with macular degeneration related to age and retinitis pigmentosa. The Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy Space Station Challenge sponsor student experiments to develop UV-enabled dental glue that can help astronauts on long-distance journeys and another that tests a fog irrigation system for plants grown in space .
With the Dragon in hand, the crew of the station will turn its attention to a spacewalk planned next Tuesday by cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Oleg Kononenko to inspect the ferry Soyuz MS-09 / 55S carrying Gerst, Prokopyev and Serena Auñón-Chancellor in orbit 6 June. Kononenko arrived at the station on Monday with Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques and NASA astronaut Anne McClain.
At the end of August, the sensors detected a small drop in pressure in the station's air supply that was traced to a leak in the upper living module of the Soyuz MS-09 vehicle. An inspection revealed what looked like a small hole drilled in an interior panel.
Prokopyev sealed the hole with a cloth soaked in epoxy and stopped the leak. The Russian engineers ordered the spacewalk the next week to inspect the exterior of the Soyuz in search of any signs of damage that could be connected to the hole found inside the spacecraft.
While the hole seemed to be the result of deliberate action by some, presumably before the launch, the Russians have not yet revealed any conclusions.
In any case, the housing module is discarded before entering the atmosphere and the problem is not considered any type of security threat when Gerst, Prokopyev and Auñón-Chancellor return to Earth on 20 December.