back to article SpaceX FINALLY lobs six sats into orbit (don't mention the landing)

SpaceX has successfully launched six new communications satellites for Orbcomm after months of delays. However, Elon Musk's rocketeers had less success at landing the used Falcon 9 rocket after its delivery. The Orbcomm birds will be used solely in a machine-to-machine communications network run by the company, and will …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "(aka kaboom)"

    Refreshing to see an honest and straightforward explanation from Musk. I can only imagine the press release that either NASA or a large aerospace company would have sent out under similar circumstances.

    1. Adam Foxton

      Re: "(aka kaboom)"

      "Boeing is pleased to announce that the first of it's new range of reusable rockets has successfully operated it's self-dismantling systems. This breaks the housing up into 325,000 small tiles which can be washed and used as drinks coasters- hence 'reusable'."

    2. Vulch

      Re: "(aka kaboom)"

      Although now a later tweet says "Detailed review of rocket telemetry needed to tell if due to initial splashdown or subsequent tip over and body slam" so maybe not so much KaBoom! as Tim-berrrrr!

      1. Esskay

        Re: "(aka kaboom)"

        It's about time "kaboom" and "body slam" made their way into space exploration parlance.

  2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    One wonders how many enemy nuclear sub's were 'accidentally' under the rocket when it went kaboom?

  3. Elmer Phud

    "lost hull integrity"

    Why not just say 'it sunk'?

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: "lost hull integrity"

      "Why not just say 'it sunk'?"

      Or why not just say "it went kaboom"? Oh, wait...

  4. Dan Paul

    This just in....

    The reason why the Falcon 9 went kaboom was due to it's reliance on lithium batteries....

    1. Gazareth

      Re: This just in....

      Oh man, I'd pay to see that :)

  5. bazza Silver badge

    In the words of Top Gear's Richard Hammond, "How are we going to use it again?" (@09:30)

    Seriously though I hope they learn enough from their telemetry to identify and fix the problem.

    1. Van

      top gear

      "In the words of Top Gear's Richard Hammond, "How are we going to use it again?" (@09:30)"

      These are rockets for big boys. Top gear faked their show with a cardboard scale model rocket.

  6. Beachrider

    He IS trying something difficult here...

    But as others have noted, the explanation for what happened and how it happened is still being compiled. Does anyone know if they recovered anything?

  7. The Western Spaceport

    Learn to understand first before commenting

    Typical, clueless idiot posters.

    The first stage recovery *experiment* was a "bonus objective" on Monday's flight. SpaceX wants to eventually make the rocket reusable, and the first step toward that goal is demonstrating the technical and economic viability of retrieving a used Falcon 9 first stage, refurbishing it and flying it again.

    The company aims to reduce the landing error with initial controlled splashdowns in the ocean before attempting a vertical touchdown *on land* (i.e., the *real* objective). The company built two prototype Falcon 9 first stages used on short takeoff and landing hops at their test site in central Texas to prove the rocket's descent and guidance systems. Both worked fine, BTW.

    Falcon 9's previous launch last April was the first time it flew with landing legs (Build a little, test a little, learn a little. What a concept, Anonymous Coward and Adam Foxton). Officials said the first stage achieved a soft, low-speed splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean, but heavy waves battered and destroyed the vehicle before ground crews could get to it.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Learn to understand first before commenting

      +--- muskal space fun ----


      | distance > 0


      +--- your head ----

    2. Esskay

      first Learn to understand before commenting

      It's always amusing when a commentard takes space exploration more seriously than the dude whose rocket just went (to use his words) "kaboom".

    3. detritus

      Re: Learn to understand first before commenting

      Typical self-important commentard who can't see through the fug of their own spectrum haze to understand when likely clued-up posters are making jokes outwith some need to exhibit how much they, as uninvolved observers, think they know about a subject.

      This is ElReg, smart people say daft things, in the process belying what they do know.

  8. Gene Cash Silver badge

    I saw the launch at the Titusville "Space View park" pier. Normally I just watch from my back yard in Orlando.

    You could easily see the VAB across the water, and I even heard the launch. The rumble & crackle seemed to last forever.

    1. phil dude
      Thumb Up


      never managed to make a launch yet...


      1. Zebo-the-Fat
        Thumb Up

        Re: jealous...

        I managed to see a shuttle launch several years ago, if I remember correctly we were about 5 miles from the launch site..... it was the loudest thing I ever heard! It was the first launch since the one went kaboom on launch.... the cheer when the SRB's separated was even louder!

    2. Stevie

      I saw the launch


  9. Ben Burch

    It's not a boat.

    You have to remember that it was not designed to land in the water.

    They are landing in water until they are certain enough of safety to risk bringing it to land.

    And water can be amazingly hard as anybody who has done a belly flop off a high dive can tell you!

    1. Pet Peeve

      Re: It's not a boat.

      From the description, I don't think it should even be called a failure, let alone a "back to the drawing board" as said in the article (get rid of that, totally unfair). It sounds to me like everything went perfectly until the landing burn ended, at which point the stage (having nothing solid to stand on), tipped over.

      If it blew up when doing a belly flop on the water, that's a shame, but it doesn't say anything about the viability of doing the same thing on land. Hopefully there's video, the space-x stuff is always great viewing.

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: It's not a boat.

        I agree on the back to the drawing board comment - it's complete bollocks. The author should be completely ashamed of that since its so far from what will happen, especially since the amount of data from SpaceX is simply 'Kaboom;' and 'we need to look at telemetry to see what happened'. How any professional journo who doesn't work the the Fail can equate that to back to the drawing board is beyond me.

        1. Tom 13

          Re: back to the drawing board

          Are they going to just use their current plans to build the next one? No? That would be insane you say?

          You're quite right. That would be insane. They need to make design changes. Where do you make design changes? At the drawing boards maybe?

          So then, "back to the drawing boards" is quite the right phrase. And frankly, was invited when Musk said "Kaboom" in his announcement. If Musk can have a bit of fun with the failure, why can't somebody else?

  10. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Love the engine's red glow

    Clearly modern spacefare!

    The feel when you couldn't even attempt this in Yurop without getting a anticapitalistic smackdown. And a strike.

  11. Hopalong

    LOX + warm sea water + iced up pressure relief valve = Karboom

    The first stage would still have some LOX left in the tank which would be boiling off, so when it landed in the water, the pressure relief valve could have iced up. The pressure in the tank would have built up until it ruptured.

    It is designed to land on land, not the water. Once SpaceX has shown that they can land it on a target, they will be bringing them back to land on a pad for reuse.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: LOX + warm sea water + iced up pressure relief valve = Karboom

      Glad to know that's solved (and hopefully Musk is following this thread).

  12. Jonathan Richards 1

    Tall items don't fall intact

    Just look at chimney demolitions. Although the initial tilt from the vertical begins with the chimney intact, the fabric cannot transmit the forces necessary to accelerate the top of the chimney along a circular arc, and it breaks at its weakest point. I don't know if anyone has tried toppling a Falcon 9 to see what would happen; I guess a bit of computer simulation would give the answer as to whether its stiffness was up to it.

    1. Stevie

      Re: Tall items don't fall intact

      Chimneys don't fall intact because they are made of individual bricks held together by old, cracked and weathered mortar that has often been given a good thwack by the shockwave of a demolition charge.

      If you watch a chimney in decent repair felled by a "Fred Dibner" the old fashioned way you'll see that what is actually happening is that the base collapses as it tries to hold the weight of the falling chimney so that it slumps rather than snapping in half. Often the top of the chimney doesn't get very far from the vertical as a result but *does* travel laterally the full length expected, or damn near.

      1. John 62
        Thumb Up

        Re: Tall items don't fall intact

        +1 for mentioning Fred Dibnah.

  13. Graham Marsden


    At least it wasn't an Earth-Shattering Kaboom...!

    1. fearnothing

      Re: Kaboom?

      These silly earthlings...

  14. Richard the Head

    Softer landing

    Instead of the "come to a complete stop" approach, they leave a small amount of vertical velocity so the stage enters the water. This would give it some stability so it's less belly flop and more drunken fall.

    1. stucs201

      Re: Softer landing

      Which would be fine if the water landings weren't just a test for future land landings. Stopping at the surface might cause some problems now, but saves having to re-calibrate and test everything again later when they don't want to be getting to the surface with significant velocity left.

  15. Kharkov
    Thumb Up

    Kudos SpaceX! Well done on getting your bird away and it looks like a successful deployment of the satellites.

    As for the landing of the first stage, as long as they had control of the 1st stage all the way down, and the stress on the 1st stage wasn't excessive, who cares if it popped a gasket after it landed and then fell over?

    If they had full control on the way down (without undue stress on the stage) then I think SpaceX should declare victory and move on to a land landing (Wow, that sounds weird!) with their next launch. August, isn't it?

  16. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    This is just an excuse! Everything went perfectly. But he's got to pretend that they don't yet have full control of the reusable stage return, so that when he drops one on that Chinese Tesla trademark troll's head, he's got plausible deniability.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not a complete failure...

    If everything worked first time, there'd be no need to test. As long as something can be learnt from the "less than optimal" landing, then it most definitely won't be a complete failure.

    If it was NASA, then it *would* be back to the drawing board and try again in 5 years time. But with SpaceX, then I'm sure it will be a case of "scratch heads" and see what happens next time.

  18. mhenriday

    Nice to see/hear

    the Space X team using SI units (or derivatives thereof) ! Hope the Reg will prove capable of doing the same !...


  19. dncnvncd

    Trailblazer or also ran

    Elon Musk's achievements are in the area of perseverance, inspiration and management, not technology. Modern rocket science began with Robert Hutchings Goddard in the Western U.S. deserts. The U.S. military was not interested. Somehow he got funding. The Third Reich routinely got copies of all his discoveries and inventions through the U.S. Patent office. The experiments of Werner von Braun and others during the NAZI reign further aided rocketry. President Eisenhower did not want to use military rocketry, which Braun was working on as part of a NAZI amnesty program at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, and attempted to use "civilian" assets for space exploration. Space planes, X-1, etc., were being developed way back then. When the Soviets launched Sputnik the rules changed in a hurry. NASA was formed but used a lot of military technology. Personnel was drawn from the military. The whole space cadre did pioneer work in full view of the public. With lives on the line, I never recall NASA or their contractors ever sugar coated anything. Having graduated from the University once nicknamed the "college of quarterbacks and astronauts" during that time period, we were kept apprised of developments in the space race. The intonations that Elon Musk and Space X is somehow superior to those individuals could not be more "bass ackwards". Congress cut funding for the programs private contractors are now working on 30 years ago. Gus Grissom almost drowned when his capsule, not nearly as tall, was inverted. So, why anyone thought a rocket would stand on it's tail in an ocean is beyond me. Should have been expected, not a failure. The real trailblazers were in NASA and should be credited, not denigrated.

    1. bholder

      Re: Trailblazer or also ran

      Sorry, Goddard wasn't the beginning, that happened in Russia, from everything I read. They were way ahead of us until at least after WWII - did we have have major rocket-powered artillery in the European theater? Re: "Stalin's Organ", the Katushya rocket system - from wikipedia: " A battery of four BM-13 launchers could fire a salvo in 7–10 seconds that delivered 4.35 tons of high explosives over a 400,000-square-metre (4,300,000 sq ft) impact zone,[2] making its power roughly equivalent to that of 72 guns."

      We didn't get that functionality until a decade later, at least.

      1. ian 22

        Re: Trailblazer or also ran


        A decade later? Have you seen film of our "rocket ships" bombarding beaches on D-Day? Impressive, that.

      2. dncnvncd

        Re: Trailblazer or also ran

        Different rocket science. Romans and Chinese had those rockets. Bazookas and mortars fall in the same class. Look at any WWII video of Navy bombardments. Goddard was developing rockets(missiles) that could sustain guided flight. Stalin's purge did give us Sikorsky and the helicopter, though.

    2. rh587 Silver badge

      Re: Trailblazer or also ran

      Noone is suggesting SpaceX are technically superior to anyone in particular in NASA, current or historical. They're certainly organisationally superior to many established players in the fact they have no associated baggage or legacy, which makes them nimble and agile.

      You don't have to be doing things new to be impressive. Lots of people died trying to go to the South Pole. Once it had been done, noone set foot again at the South Pole again for decades (though people visited the continent), by which time they'd worked out how to do things reasonably safely, and they went with aircraft delivered by the commercial aviation industry. These days, most people who go to Antarctica don't die, despite it remaining a hazardous and hostile environment.

      Similarly, NASA did amazing things with a blank cheque in the 60s. Since then it has slowed, working out how to do those things - and more - without killing their astronauts in the process. The level of risk they were prepared to accept dropped after they had proved it could be done at all.

      So what that kerosene rockets are an established technology? Internal Combustion engines are old hat, that doesn't mean a new Ford EcoBoost is comparable to a 2hp unit from 1902 or that the engineers are any less skilled in their trade. Similarly SpaceX will employ plenty of people the intellectual equal to the early space cadre engineers. Doesn't mean they're better, but it's also not ass backward - they're not inferior either just because (by chance of birth) they weren't first or because they don't have to do it with a slide rule and test their theories by putting a physical rocket on the pad - they can blow shit up in computers before they have to spend money on fabricating something which could kill the person strapped to the top of it.

      1. dncnvncd

        Re: Trailblazer or also ran

        Sorry. Also ran's are not equal to pioneers in anything. Henry Ford had numerous lawsuits against him for patent infringement. Henry Ford is recognized for developing a cheap, simple car built on an assembly line, not the technology that made the car possible. Computer models are based on pioneer science. Things happen in real world application that the virtual world simply cannot duplicate. Todays computer models are probably based on main framed computer programs developed by NASA and their contractors. Computer science was critical to the space program. Kerosene uses oxygen from the air. Rocket fuel has to use an oxidizer to create the required inertia and momentum for space flight. If you've discovered how to use kerosene for the required thrust, you're well on your way to developing the space plane making missile launches obsolete.

  20. bholder

    Surf's up!

    Just big waves, Dude, time to teach that there rocket to SURF! :D

  21. Littldo

    Biased article

    I didn't see that this article was posted to the op-ed pages.

    Maybe kaboom wasn't the right word, but I doubt it exploded. My money is that once in contact with the water and engine out, the 20 story towering rocket fell over and the stage lost integrity and sank. Who knows what they were expecting.

    I think that spacex achieved all of their goals for the flight. Have you ever tried to land something in the ocean. I'm sure it's harder than it looks. I can't wait until the start landing on land.

    and at least they're trying to advance rocket science, and not just collect the checks from congress.

    all I can say is: Great work SpaceX

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