SpaceX’s supplier mission to the International Space Station (ISS) suffered partial failure early morning on Saturday after a successful lift-off of its ferry cargo mission to the ISS. This is SpaceX’s fifth commercial resupply (CRS) mission to the orbital lab, which piggybacked on the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon Space cargo.
The SpaceX mission saw a successful launch from the Cape Canaveral early morning today, after having been postponed twice from its earlier launch date of December, 19, 2014. The main mission was to carry cargo to re-stock the ISS with more than 5100 pounds of food, supplies and equipment. This is the fifth commercial re-supply (CRS) mission undertaken by the Hawthorne based company whose full registered name is, ‘Space Exploration Technologies Corporation’.
Even though the Dragon Cargo Capsule was successfully launched into space and is now expected to dock with the ISS, the leftover rocket booster’s re-landing could not be successful. Elon Musk, who was visibly disappointed tweeted:
Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 10, 2015
In a first of its kind, SpaceX attempted to land its mission’s leftover rocket boosters on a 300×100 feet sized barge (with the width stretchable to 170 feet) that was floating in the open Atlantic Ocean about 200 miles off Jacksonville, Florida., north of the Cape Canaveral Air Force station launch site. However, Musk was accepting of the result as he himself was aware that there was only a 50-50 chance of a successful re-landing. A ship near the re-landing site attempted to videotape the event, but not much could be recorded owing to ‘dark and foggy’ conditions.
Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of companies such as PayPal and Tesla Motors currently focuses on developing re-usable rockets that could be used for multiple flights. Currently available technology cannot avoid the damage that is caused to a rocket’s boosters, which get too burnt out or damaged for reuse. This makes space missions very expensive and SpaceX endeavors have been to reduce such expenses. For years, Elon Musk has devoted his company’s resources towards developing reusable rockets.
SpaceX is the first commercial company to undertake a resupply mission to the ISS. NASA had appointed two commercial companies for its re-supply missions after its space shuttle program was scuttled in 2011. The other company, ‘Orbital Sciences Corp. was sidelined in October after its Antares rocket exploded minutes after liftoff.