Elon Musk just released video of the first stage booster of the SpaceX CRS-16 mission as it returns to Earth and spins out of control – in rather dramatic fashion.
While SpaceX cut away from the descending booster as it appeared spin during the webcast, Elon Musk released the full video of the landing on Twitter just hours after the booster landed in the ocean.
As I noted in the video below, SpaceX intentionally aims for the ocean when it’s landing a booster, then at the last few moments changes the course to land in the desired location. This is done to protect spectators and crew on the ground in case something happens like this during the booster’s descent. This also saves money – they don’t have to repair the landing site.
When landing on their drone ship, they also wait until the last few moments to change course and land on the ship.
Musk explained on Twitter that the hydraulic pump for one of the titanium gridfins stalled, resulting in it being stuck, causing the landing to be less-than-controllable.
Grid fin hydraulic pump stalled, so Falcon landed just out to sea. Appears to be undamaged & is transmitting data. Recovery ship dispatched.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 5, 2018
The primary mission – getting payload to the International Space Station – is currently fine and there are no reported issues.
It’s important to remember that self-propelled landings like what SpaceX is doing is very, very new. Until about three years ago, it was normal for spent rocket boosters to be discarded in the ocean. While I’m sure SpaceX would have preferred to land the booster safely, as they scale up their launch schedule and streamline their process, small mistakes like this are bound to happen. SpaceX has a history of addressing any issues they uncover and fixing them rather quickly.
But as I said in the video, the only real mistake would be to not learn from your mistakes.
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