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06 December 2018, 11:14 | Edward Lowe
After a one day delay caused by moldy mice food, the latest SpaceXFalcon 9 rocket with the Dragon spacecraft lifted off Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. SpaceX's webcast cut away from the first-stage feed shortly thereafter, preventing viewers from seeing the impending splashdown just off the Florida coast. The horizon is vertical, at right; the waffle-iron-looking things are two of the booster's "grid fins".
The mission launched from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 1:16 p.m. (18:16 GMT) on December 5, 2018.
Unfortunately, SpaceX suffered a malfunction when a grin fin hydraulic pump stalled and Falcone landed out to sea. This time around, the capture ship missed the nosecones but a tweet by Elon Musk explains that they touched down "softly in the water" which is a plus.
Hypersonic grid fins help the booster steer its way back for a precision touchdown. The early Falcon 9 rocket stages proved that the model was viable, but the Block 5 is capable of being used up to 100 times before finally needing to be disposed of.
Koenigsmann also stressed that the public was never in danger during today's landing attempt. The stage, at one point spinning rapidly, ended up touching down on the surface of the ocean a few kilometers offshore. "Even if it is on land it avoids buildings".
In addition, Koenigsmann said, Falcon 9 first and second stages both feature autonomous "flight termination systems", which would step in if the above safeguards somehow fell short.
If the booster had veered off-course more than two minutes before landing, Gebhardt said, then it would have exploded.
The failed landing was a first for a return-to-launch-site landing.
As Musk noted, SpaceX plans to recover the booster. The first-stage rockets have a 84 percent recovery rate, according to the company. Although it is nearly without a doubt too early to actually know if the booster is in good enough condition to ever fly again, Musk seemed to directly suggest that it could eventually relaunch in support of an "internal SpaceX mission", basically either Starlink or tech development.
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