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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Bummer: SpaceX’s Landing Streak Comes to an End

As reported by The VergeA SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched two satellites into orbit this morning, but the company failed to land the vehicle on a floating drone ship at sea afterward.
The vehicle's landing caused a bit of drama, since SpaceX wasn't sure at first if the vehicle actually made it down in one piece. Once the rocket landed, it shook the drone ship pretty violently, causing the ship's onboard camera to freeze. The last shots of the vehicle before the camera cut out showed the Falcon 9 standing upright on the ship, but there were also some flames around the bottom.
Afterward, a SpaceX employee announced on the company's webcast that the vehicle was indeed lost. "We can say that Falcon 9 was lost in this attempt," said Kate Tice, a process improvement engineer for SpaceX. Later CEO Elon Musk confirmed that the Falcon 9 suffered an RUD, or a rapid unscheduled disassembly. That's Musk speak for an explosion.

Ascent phase & satellites look good, but booster rocket had a RUD on droneship

Later, Musk said that the problem had to do with low thrust in the one of the rocket's three main engines, and that all the engines need to be operating at full capacity to handle this type of landing. He noted that the company is already working on upgrades to the Falcon 9 so that it can handle this type of "thrust shortfall" in the future.
The failure puts an end to SpaceX’s recent landing streak. The company has pulled off successful landings after its past three launches, all of which touched down on the drone ship. So far the company has landed four Falcon 9s in total — three at sea and one on solid ground.
SpaceX will have many more chances to land its rockets again soon. The company will launch a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA on July 16th. After that launch, SpaceX will try to land the Falcon 9 on solid ground at Cape Canaveral, Florida — something it hasn’t attempted since its first rocket landing in December. And after that, SpaceX has another satellite launch slated for August.
Meanwhile, the company still has an impressive stockpile of landed rockets in its possession. Right now, SpaceX is keeping its four recovered rockets in a hangar at Launch Complex 39A, a launch site at Kennedy Space Center in Florida that the company leases from NASA. That hangar can only store five Falcon 9 rockets at a time, though. So whenever SpaceX does land its next rocket in Florida, the building will be at full capacity.