Space X’s Falcon rocket crashed and burned Tuesday and now you can watch the explosion in all its destructive glory. In a 22-second scene that seems pulled from director Michael Bay’s cutting room floor, you see the 43-meter rocket attempt to land on a robotic barge in the Atlantic Ocean only to tip over and crash, decimating everything in its path.
The first stage booster rocket was on its way back to earth after deploying a shipment of groceries to the International Space Station (ISS).
If the rocket had landed successfully this would have been a groundbreaking feat for SpaceX, a commercial spaceflight company. According to their website, they have a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to fly cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station. Their goal is to use reusable rockets to fly these missions which would drastically reduce the cost of launches, Business Insider reports.
SpaceX’s current launch apparatus operates in two stages. The Falcon 9’s first stage, powered by nine Merlin engines at a 6000 kN of thrust, drops off after it reaches a specified altitude. Then the second stage continues its orbit with the unmanned Dragon capsule in tow. This part of the mission was executed successfully
The first stage apparatus is supposed to land in one piece on the barge so that it can be prepared for the next mission. Normally these first stage rockets crash into the ocean which makes supply launches to the International Space Station very costly.
However, the technology is still experimental as evidenced by Tuesday’s crash landing. In a disarmingly mild response to the SpaceX rocket crash, company CEO, Elon Musk had this to say on Twitter:
Looks like Falcon landed fine, but excess lateral velocity caused it to tip over post landing pic.twitter.com/eJWzN6KSJa
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 14, 2015
This is the second time that SpaceX has failed to land its reusable rocket. Even though this landing was a failure, it’s still a positive development, say writers at Extreme Tech. At least the rocket landed vertically, it’s the lateral velocity that caused it to keel over and crash into the deck of the barge. The previous attempt in January failed in a more climactic fashion, as the Falcon 9 exhuasted its hydraulic fluid reserve and smashed into the barge.
If Space X can get the technology right, they will eventually move these rocket landings to land which will make it easier to refuel and relaunch them.
SpaceX plans to try landing a reusable Falcon rocket again in June when their next shipment to the ISS is scheduled.