SpaceX Rocket Makes Hard Landing Aboard ‘Drone Spaceport Ship’

The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket launched by SpaceX, on a cargo resupply service mission to the International Space Station, lifts off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida January 10, 2015. REUTERS/Scott Audette
The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket launched by SpaceX, on a cargo resupply service mission to the International Space Station, lifts off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida January 10, 2015. REUTERS/Scott Audette

SpaceX founder and serial entrepreneur Elon Musk said the company’s Falcon 9 rocket made a hard landing but reached the ocean-going “drone spaceport ship” after re-entering earth’s atmosphere after successfully delivering supplies to the International Space Station.

In a series of tweets, Musk said that the “Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho.”

“Ship itself is fine. Some of the support equipment on the deck will need to be replaced…,” Musk added.

The drone spaceport ship is basically a fancy name for a modified unmanned barge, which was developed with and built by LAD Services, LLC, a fabrication and repair company that has 3 shipyard facilities in Louisiana.

While some of the media are describing the mission as failed, that actually couldn’t be further from the case. After all the rocket hit its target, which is no easy task considering it had just travelled from space and the target was a tiny 300 by 100 foot platform some 200 miles off Florida in the Atlantic Ocean. The barge itself will also live to see another day, at least with some repairs. All in all, that’s pretty good considering this was the first try.

Photos of the barge being towed into Port of Jacksonville show some damage, but nothing out of the ordinary if you didn’t know any better – minus some scorching, although a space rocket did just land on it. gCaptain is told crews are already working on repairs so the barge can be used again for future flights.

After Saturday’s hard landing, Musk later tweeted that the hard landing was the result of not enough hydraulic fluid, which apparently ran out right before the landing. Not to worry, though, next month’s flight is already being planned with 50% more hydraulic fluid so there should be plenty of margin for the landing attempt.

If all goes as planned, the Falcon 9 rocket we be capable of landing vertically on the platform and then reused in future flights.

Saturday’s mission lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 4:47 a.m. EST on Saturday, with landing on the barge targeted less for than 10 minutes later.

“Am super proud of my crew for making huge strides towards reusability on this mission. You guys rock!,” Musk tweeted on Saturday.