SpaceX Comes Closer than Ever to Drone Ship Landing

If “close” described the previous two SpaceX drone ship landing attempts, what do we call this?

While the primary objective of delivering the Jason-3 satellite to orbit was a success, many space enthusiasts tuned into the launch to watch the company attempt its first sea landing since the successful ground landing in Cape Canaveral back in December.

All of the Falcon 9’s stages performed nominally, and minutes after Jason-3 separated from the rocket’s second stage, the spacecraft unfolded its solar arrays. Initial telemetry indicates the satellite is in good health, according to JPL.

The much anticipated ‘secondary test objective,’ landing the first stage on an autonomous drone ship about 200 miles off the coast of California, ended as yet another near miss.

According to SpaceX founder, Elon Musk, “Touchdown speed was ok, but a leg lockout didn’t latch, so it tipped over after landing.”

Note: In rocketry, when wishing well before a launch, avoid the phrase “break a leg.”

Musk later quipped “at least the pieces were bigger this time!”

Perfecting sea landings remains important because until stationary ocean landing sites can be constructed, SpaceX needs its drone ship fleet to land rockets from higher-energy launches.

Read More: Drone Ship Landing Mechanics

With the technology being tuned after each successive launch, space enthusiasts can expect to see SpaceX achieve the feat soon.

Elon Musk, for one, is optimistic about improving landing success rates.

In other SpaceX news, the company successfully test fired the booster stage from its historic landing in Cape Canaveral last month. The test went well, with only one of nine Merlin engines showing thrust fluctuations.

Stay tuned for more updates on SpaceX, rocket reusability, and other commercial space stories.

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