Saturday, April 18, 2015

SpaceX CRS-6: Good and Bad News

Dragon CRS-6 approaches the ISS.

On Friday, SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft on mission CRS-6 arrived at the International Space Station. After docking with the station's HArmony module early in the morning, the crew began the procedures that would eventually equalize the cabin air pressure and allow unloading to begin on Saturday. The Dragon brings over 2 tons of supplies and science equipment to the station. One of the new items is a space-adapted Expresso coffee-making machine, which brings just that much more civilization to our outpost in space.

Falcon attempts a vertical landing on the SpaceX barge in the Atlantic.

With the Dragon spacecraft safely on its way to the ISS on launch day (Tuesday) the rocket that propelled Dragon into orbit was involved in another experimental landing. SpaceX has been working hard to develop new technology for the Falcon rocket that would allow for a powered, vertical landing. A successful landing system would enable SpaceX to reuse most components of the rocket, thus lowering the cost of delivering payloads to space. In this test, the Falcon 9 rocket descended as planned to a floating landing pad built on a barge placed out in the Atlantic Ocean. The rocket thrusters fired as planned, and the rocket slowed and began orienting itself for an upright touchdown. At the last moment, however, the rocket tipped over, and the resulting explosion is obvious. 

The rocket explodes after crashing on the pad.

SpaceX will begin repairs to the barge and further tests on the Falcon 9 landing system will continue.

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