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SpaceX Successfully Lands A Falcon 9 Rocket At Sea For The Third Time (theverge.com) 107

An anonymous reader writes: SpaceX has successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean for the third time in a row. The Verge reports: "It was the third time in a row the company has landed a rocket booster at sea, and the fourth time overall. The landing occurred a few minutes before the second stage of the Falcon 9 delivered the THAICOM-8 satellite to space, where it will make its way to geostationary geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). GTO is a high-elliptical orbit that is popular for satellites, sitting more than 20,000 miles above the Earth. The 3,100-kilogram satellite will spend 15 years improving television and data signals across Southeast Asia." The company landed its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship for the second time earlier this month. UPDATE 5/27/15: Frank249 writes in a comment: "Elon Musk just tweeted: 'Rocket landing speed was close to design max and used up contingency crush core, hence back and forth motion. Prob ok, but some risk of tipping.'" He went on to tweet: "Crush core is aluminum honeycomb for energy absorption in the telescoping actuator. Easy to replace (if Falcon makes it back to port)."
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SpaceX Successfully Lands A Falcon 9 Rocket At Sea For The Third Time

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  • Congratulations! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bender0x7D1 ( 536254 ) on Friday May 27, 2016 @05:48PM (#52198847)

    Congratulations to everyone at Space X who contributed to this awesome achievement! You have made space flight exciting again!

    • Re:Congratulations! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SpankiMonki ( 3493987 ) on Friday May 27, 2016 @06:27PM (#52199011)

      I watched the live stream on this newfangled internet thingy and I must say, I felt a little bit of the old excitement I experienced as a kid when watching the Apollo missions on our old black & white TV back in the day. Sticking that landing (on a friggin drone ship fer Chrissakes) for the second time in a row is one heckuva feat of engineering,

      Tell you what, those SpaceX kids are welcome on my lawn anytime.

      • Too bad they always seem to have trouble getting us good live footage of the touchdown. On the first successful ocean landing, they switched from the excellent chase plane footage to the terrible local camera link from Of Course I Still Love You at precisely the wrong time, just as the rocket was touching down. All we got was a lot of fire and smoke, then they switched back to the chase plane when the rocket was standing still. We had to wait for the full chase plane video to be posted the next day, to see

        • They only get a chase plane when it is a NASA launch since NASA supplies that. So there won't be any chase plane footage in this case.
        • On landing attempts when they do have NASA's chase plane available, watch NASA TV simultaneously on another monitor. They don't cut to the barge view and you actually get to see the landing. Overall SpaceX's coverage is much better but they do screw up sometimes so having NASA's feed at the same time is a good backup.

          • But the NASA missions are just to low earth orbit, with a single engine landing burn since they have plenty of fuel left. The three engine landing burn after a GTO launch must be even more spectacular, but I guess it will take a while before we get to see one. Can't they just put a gyroscopically stabilized camera onto a small boat in the vicinity?

        • the Of Course I Still Love You

          Who named that ship, Iain M. Banks?!

          • Indirectly, yes [tor.com]. Elon Musk named the two drone ships "Just Read the Instructions" and "Of Course I Still Love You" in honor of Iain M. Banks, RIP. They were both names of spaceships in his book "The Player of Games".

            • I knew I recognised it! The "Just Read The Instructions" would have been obvious; don't know how I forgot the OCISLY! Jernau (Morat) Gurgeh and Flere Imsaho (if I recall their names correctly, and I think I do) are my favourite pair of reluctant protagonists; so much so that the Player of Games is my favourite scifi novel, I just haven't read it in a couple years.
    • Bravo, SpaceX!

    • But the real achievement I think they're aiming for is to go through exciting and reach the boring on the far side.

    • I'm interested to know that having recouvered the First Stage, how many times can it be refurbished and reused before failure rates effect the launch?

      And, perhaps heven if it's not reusable as a whole, are there indevidual parts that can be reused? It's got to be made of top quality materials, so perhaps there is value in simply shredding it all up and recycling the basic material?

      • by caseih ( 160668 ) on Friday May 27, 2016 @10:09PM (#52199717)

        Elon Musk has stated that their design goal is 100 uses. That's pretty ambitious and time will tell if this is feasible or not. I'm sure when they do reuse the stage for the first dozen times they will be doing a lot of structural analysis and look for cracks with x-rays until they completely understand the stage's failure modes.

        • by haruchai ( 17472 )

          I think 100 uses is unachievable in the near future but even if they manage only 10-20, it'll be an enormous advantage over everyone else.

      • Designed for 30 uses. But we will see.
    • Congratulations to everyone at Space X who contributed to this awesome achievement! You have made space flight exciting again!

      I agree with you. Completely.

      And the fact that is being met with by a yawn from the popular press is a signal that the incredible achievements of SpaceX are "the new normal."

      Now that is yet another Grand Accomplishment!

      • Congratulations to everyone at Space X who contributed to this awesome achievement! You have made space flight exciting again!

        I agree with you. Completely.

        And the fact that is being met with by a yawn from the popular press is a signal that the incredible achievements of SpaceX are "the new normal."

        I'm not ready for "the new normal". I made comments a few months back about how the Air Force range officers are completely unaccustomed to the operational tempo SpaceX will have to achieve in order to fill all their contracts. I didn't realize that I was completely unaccustomed to their new operational tempo. I've missed watching the last two launches live. I'm used to being able to look at the SpaceX site once every quarter and not missing anything. This is ridiculous.

        *shakes fist* Damn you Elon Musk

  • by frank249 ( 100528 ) on Friday May 27, 2016 @05:50PM (#52198859)

    Elon Musk just tweeted: 'Rocket landing speed was close to design max & used up contingency crush core, hence back & forth motion. Prob ok, but some risk of tipping.'

    • by frank249 ( 100528 ) on Friday May 27, 2016 @05:54PM (#52198869)

      Musk continues: 'Crush core is aluminum honeycomb for energy absorption in the telescoping actuator. Easy to replace (if Falcon makes it back to port).'

    • by Traf-O-Data-Hater ( 858971 ) on Saturday May 28, 2016 @12:00AM (#52199991)
      For interest's sake, the idea of a crushable hhoneycomb landing leg arrangement was used for the Apollo Lumar Modules. It was very light as it only needed to be used once, unlike a hydraulic or spring system. Have a look at page 6 of the LM Structures document at http://history.nasa.gov/alsj/a... [nasa.gov]
      • For interest's sake, the idea of a crushable hhoneycomb landing leg arrangement was used for the Apollo Lumar Modules. It was very light as it only needed to be used once, unlike a hydraulic or spring system.
        Have a look at page 6 of the LM Structures document at http://history.nasa.gov/alsj/a... [nasa.gov]

        So? If a technology works, you keep using it.

        Don't fix what isn't broken.

        At any rate, these are not the spot-welded honeycombs of the Apollo days. I would wager that that they are extruded aluminum honeycombs.

        • The original poster was not criticizing reuse of ideas. What's with the tone?

          OK. My tone was harsh – the opposite of what it should have been.

          This was actually a textbook case of not fixing what isn't broken, despite SpaceX modding so much other stuff. They did not throw the baby out with the bath-water, so I should have been supportive of the "For interest's sake..." comment.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Is there a time line out there when the will actually reuse a Falcon 9 rocket? What type of milestones are they looking for?

    If I understand correctly the rockets that they are recovering are for evaluating purposes only. That is, they are trying to figure out the type of stress and damage a rocket undergoes so they can design a rocket that is durable enough to be launched. The last one suffered so much damage that it could never fly again. That being said, that particular landing was a difficult one. The ro

    • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Friday May 27, 2016 @06:19PM (#52198977) Homepage

      Is there a time line out there when the will actually reuse a Falcon 9 rocket? What type of milestones are they looking for?

      The plan currently is for the first reuse to occur by the end of summer http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/04/09/falcon_9_rocket_reused_in_two_months/ [theregister.co.uk] but given SpaceX's general tendency to not do things on time, by November seems like a safer bet.

      If I understand correctly the rockets that they are recovering are for evaluating purposes only. That is, they are trying to figure out the type of stress and damage a rocket undergoes so they can design a rocket that is durable enough to be launched. The last one suffered so much damage that it could never fly again.

      Not quite. The first landed rocket was kept for evaluation purposes. The one that suffered damage seemed to be possibly reflyable but given the damage they decided that it was better to subject to it to very extensive testing. They are intending to relaunch (very likely it will be the second landed one which landed on the drone ship).

  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Friday May 27, 2016 @06:14PM (#52198947) Homepage

    Elon's tweeted that the landing came down a bit hard but it shouldn't have done anything but impacted the crumple zones on the landing legs. Since the legs are replaced anyways, this shouldn't impact reusability. Right now, this is the fourth successful landing, and it looks like the basics of landing have been really worked out. Whether they can then actually reuse them is still in the air.

    Also, there's been prior speculation that SpaceX was going to try to reuse the fairing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Payload_fairing [wikipedia.org]- which is the nose cone around the payload which helps protect the payload and keep it aerodynamic during the first part of the launch. If they can do fairing recover and reuse that would be another avenue for serious cost reduction. They mentioned fairing reuse as something they were working towards on the broadcast which is as far as I know the most prominent time they've mentioned it. So it looks like they are going to be trying to seriously do that. How much this all actually reduces cost remains to be seen.

    Right now, even without reuse, SpaceX is substantially cheaper than every other company for the medium size payloads. (They aren't launching the really small ones and until the Falcon Heavy is set up they won't be able to launch the really big ones). So even without reuse they are having a substantial impact on the market. The other major players, ULA https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Launch_Alliance [wikipedia.org] (which is a joint Boeing and Lockheed company) and Ariane https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Launch_Alliance [wikipedia.org] (the big French rocket launcher who is currently the biggest rocket launch company) are both planning on reuse programs, but they are essentially playing catchup. ULA has a plan for just reusing the engines which may be interesting. Ariane has a similarly interesting idea https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adeline_(rocket) [wikipedia.org] but neither imagines reuse any earlier than 2020, by which point, SpaceX will have been doing full first stage reuse and probably even doing reuse for the Falcon Heavy and will be working on their next generation Raptor rockets. That's not to say that ULA and the others aren't doing interesting things - their ACES proposal https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Cryogenic_Evolved_Stage [wikipedia.org] is really neat, but in terms of reducing cost through reuse, SpaceX is way ahead of everyone else.

  • Fess up time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Friday May 27, 2016 @07:18PM (#52199217)
    As a skeptic of the process, I appear to have been wrong, now that they have the bugs worked out.

    So good work, Spacex! Landing pencils is quite a trick, and yer doin' it.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not quite yet, they still have to prove that these returned boosters can reliably be reused. However it seems extremely unlikely that will be a showstopper, the mere fact that they are reliably refiring after "reentry" for a precision landing sequence seems to prove that they come back in decent shape. At most they may require a few modifications, a few components strengthened, some extra insulation, a few extra sensors, maybe a few components moved. They've already blown the skeptics out of the water wh

  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Friday May 27, 2016 @08:09PM (#52199387)

    so he's the boss of a company distributing solar panels, making electric cars and created reusable rockets which is all well and good but now he's beating so many levels in Candy Crush that's cleared entire areas I haven't even heard about?! but... that's my specialty. STAY IN YOUR LANE ELON! >:(

  • Isn't hitting a target 100's of miles precisely a military technology? I mean just imagine the cylinder carry exploive n the drone ship is an enemy target. So we are now in the time when a private company can own tech similar to ICBMs.

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