back to article Easy ... easy ... Aw CRAP! SpaceX rocket ALMOST lands on ocean hoverbase

SpaceX very nearly landed the lower stage of its Falcon 9 rocket in one piece at sea on Tuesday – as the capsule payload of the rocket successfully made its way towards the International Space Station. The rocket, carrying a Dragon cargo capsule loaded with supplies for the space station, blasted off on schedule, and separated …

  1. Richard Ball

    Well done with the good launch and improved target practice - here's hoping for a good landing next time. Though I rarely laugh as loud as when I first saw the jaunty angle of contact last time round.

    I really hope their piss filtering system takes out caffeine. If it doesn't they're all going to be permanently wired until they either retire the iss or purge the water for fresh.

    (Don't know how much of the caffeine in a coffee gets absorbed by the drinker, but it isn't all of it)

    1. Martin Budden

      Last time around I thought there was way too much lateral velocity, but I put that down to the x-wings running out of fluid... now I suspect the excessive lateral velocity first time around was no different from this time around.

      1. Captain DaFt

        I think their biggest problem is that although they can control the stage's rate of descent, they have no control over how much or how fast the barge rides up and down on the waves.

        So the barge either drops out from under the rocket at the wrong time, or rises up into it, skewing the relative rate of descent.

        1. Kharkov
          Go

          Landing on (seemingly) bouncy ground...

          I think you've put your finger on a valid point there. If the barge is going up and down (I've heard there are engines to reduce the lateral movement to zero or near-zero) then that could be a problem for the incoming 1st stage.

          That said, SpaceX is just trying to prove the concept. One successful landing and they'll have done that. And the NEXT barge may well have a landing platform on hydraulic jacks.

          Da Roof! Da Roof! We gonna raise da... er... landing platform...

          Nah, the next hit on MTV it isn't.

          And for the failure proclaimers out there? SpaceX is doing more than any other company to make reusability work. They got the Dragon capsule away, they controlled the descent of the 1st stage and... didn't quite get the landing to work. I'd rate that as 99%.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Landing on (seemingly) bouncy ground...

            If they nail the landing on a barge, landing on terra firma will be a piece of de-caffeine piss

        2. Richard Ball

          ..

          The motion of the platform will be modelled in the flight controller and used to inform the flight plan for a big chunk of its final descent. There will be aerospace-grade inertial sensors on it and systems akin to those used for autolanding a military aircraft on a carrier. So the problem isn't so much the motion of the platform per se, rather it is the irregularity of the motion and consequent uncertainty in projections of its position over time. (Periodic motion OK, jerky not so good)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Joke

            @Richard Ball

            So owners of this red rocket should be comforted by the knowledge that "it's not the size of the wave, its the motion of the ocean"?

          2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

            Re: ..

            Size matters.

            Like it or not a Nimitz class monster does not wobble too much. It is just too BIG for that.

            Compared to that landing on a small barge is a different exercise in its entirety.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: ..

              If only we'd waited a bit we could have sold them the Ark Royal for landing on!

            2. ridley

              Re: ..

              Try landing on one, the back end most certainly does go up and down and by very many feet too. If memory serves me right by about 40ft in rough weather.

              Pilots find carrier landing at night in rough weather more stressful than combat for a reason.

              1. Tom 13

                @ridley

                All very true. And yet, a carrier is nearly immobile compared to that little barge.

            3. iranu

              Re: ..

              They are towing USS Ranger (CV-61) round the bottom of the Americas to a scrap yard in Texas. I wonder if that could be used instead. Would be a fitting purpose instead of turning it into razor blades.

        3. Gordon 10 Silver badge
          Flame

          @captain daft

          Not sure you're right there, for this mission at least, lateral motion suggests so far that the rocket has been coming in sideways relative to the barge then skidding and tipping.

          Presumably the barge has station keeping thrusters, either they need to let the barge drift a little in the same sideways direction, or use the cold gas thrusters on the rocket to kill the sideways motion.

          I would think swell is a less issue, and potentially somewhat out of their control due to weather and the like than the lateral motion. Having said that they also presumably have much more thrust on hand to counteract heaving and pitching.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Just a thought:

            Just how impractical would it be to control height and angle of the landing platform with hydraulics? A rough back-of-a-beermat estimate...

            1. James Hughes 1

              Re: Just a thought:

              The sea state was 3ft waves, I seriously doubt a barge this big was moving up and down at all. It weighs over 4500 tons IIRC.

              1. the spectacularly refined chap Silver badge

                Re: Just a thought:

                The sea state was 3ft waves, I seriously doubt a barge this big was moving up and down at all. It weighs over 4500 tons IIRC.

                Aircraft carrier "ball" lights that guide the planes down have explicit compensation for heave - up and down motion. They can weigh 100,000 tonnes+. Yes, they're big and heavy but the water they are sat in is even bigger and heavier...

                1. ukgnome

                  Re: Just a thought:

                  Pretty much what the spectacularly refined chap said.

                  You would need a massive vessel to counteract the waves.

                  1. JeffyPoooh
                    Pint

                    Re: Just a thought:

                    "You would need a massive vessel to counteract the waves."

                    Nope. Just medium sized (700T), but one that can flip up on end.

                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RP_FLIP

                    Stable, even in the vertical axis, in waves is the raison d'être of the Flip Ship.

                    I'm surprised that Mr. Musk didn't think about borrowing a Flip Ship for this purpose. LOL.

                    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

                      Re: Just a thought:

                      RP_FLIP

                      That is an interesting idea. However, it does not have the mass to convert to a landing pad. You are looking at a "monster FLIP" with displacement ~ 10x the displacement of the original RP_FLIP to do that. At least.

                      I would not be surpirsed if Elon builds something like this when the idea reaches production stage as it can double as a launch pad as well.

                      1. It makes his march towards "The Ultimate Supervillain" status nearly complete. Add a large fake tanker and no Lotus driving Brit teamed up with a cute "Russian" (quotes intended) agent will be able to defeat him.

                      2. From a cost-saving perspective he no longer has to lease the fairly expensive pads at NASA facilities.

                2. ridley

                  Re: Just a thought:

                  That is what I was talking about. I used to work on them and the end of the carriers most certainly do move up and down a frightening amount and the ball light has to account for it.

                  Is this where "you are on the ball" comes from?

                  1. SkippyBing

                    Re: Just a thought:

                    I suspect the barge is a SWATH (Small Water Area Twin Hull) style design. Imagine it as a platform sat on two submarines. The buoyancy is provided by the submerged bodies, the pillars connecting them to the platform are narrow in cross section, think of an aerofoil, this means as the waves pass along the vessel there's very little change in the submerged volume, hence little change in buoyancy or vertical movement of the platform. Without anchoring it to the seabed that's about as stable as you'll get.

                    It will still move with the swell but that's actually fairly predictable and normally quite a long time period unless you're in the sort of sea states where frankly you'd be better of crashing the rocket into the sea.

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: Just a thought:

                      >I suspect the barge is a SWATH (Small Water Area Twin Hull) style design.

                      It's not, it's a barge. Google "MARMAC 300" for pics.

                      1. SkippyBing

                        Re: Just a thought:

                        Thanks for that! Interesting choice as I would have thought a barge would be the worst thing for the open ocean!! I'll have to do some reading to see what modifications they've done to it.

        4. JeffyPoooh
          Pint

          Why a wobbly wave-tossed barge?

          Why not put a platform on some chunk of stable land somewhere?

          According to the promotional video (where everything works perfectly), the rockets are supposed to land near the spot from whence they left.

          Obviously the landing spot will eventually be moved further afield after the first major failure when the authorities decide that aiming rockets back towards expensive launch installations is not a brilliant idea.

          So Musk will need a barge to bring the rockets home, from the landing spot 100 miles away in some empty valley.

          1. Tom 13

            Re: Why a wobbly wave-tossed barge?

            Safety reasons of some sort or other. Barge landing was all they could get approved.

            Nope, doesn't make sense to me either. Solid land seems much better for this sort of test.

        5. ravenviz Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re:

          Why not just have an oil-rig type affair if it's at-sea landings they want?

      2. DryBones
        Mushroom

        @Martin

        To me, it looks like a control issue. That's undamped/underdamped oscillation you're seeing, might have a 30m arc to it, too. Without seeing if it was stable earlier in the approach it's hard to say if this just developed on final approach, or if it's wiggled its way down. Either way, that being present just before landing is the kiss of death.

        If you watch carefully, you can see it snap just above the dust cloud.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Mushroom

        "now I suspect the excessive lateral velocity first time around was no different from this time around."

        Maybe next time they can do it via remote control and I can have a go at landing it? I used to be a dab hand at Lunar Lander in the arcades!

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Richard Ball

        Re: Caffeine

        OK then.

    3. Ralph B

      Practice Makes Perfect

      SpaceX shouldn't feel bad. I usually take 3 attempts to make perfect landing too.

    4. Fink-Nottle
      Pint

      Re: Caffeine

      > I really hope their piss filtering system takes out caffeine.

      Caffeine is a fairly large molecule so it should be filtered quite effectively. However, worries about trace caffeine in the drinking water pale into insignificance when you realise that the urine from 'laboratory rodents' on the ISS is recycled too.

  2. Mark 85 Silver badge

    A very well done

    A successful launch and an almost successful landing. Appears to be some minor bugs in the landing.... lateral speed in this case, but rocketry isn't easy. The important thing is the resupply mission is going well.

    I'm tad bit disgusted by some the trolls on Musk's Twitter feed and even the news media reporting the landing as a "failiure". No failure at all in my opinion. Crashing is part of testing. The mere fact they can even hit the barge is success. I'm hoping they can get a couple of landings on the barge in an upright position. It won't matter if the wind and waves knock it over after that but maybe NASA and the FAA will let them go for land instead of the barge then.

    I won't even go into the whining idiots who were pissed (American "pissed" not British "pissed") that there was no HD live video of the landing. Sheeesh...

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: A very well done

      I think this is all kinds of awesome tinged with some doubts.

      So the basic launch is kind of old-hat, we've been there, done that. So now rather than landing large, expensive and potentially reusable bits of the launch rocket in the Pacific +/- a few square kilometers.. It's landing in a much more controlled fashion in a way one could almost walk away from. Or <stuff> fab'd in space could end up useable vs dropping it in a reasonably sized ocean and having enough recovery vessels handy before it sinks.

      But I'm bothered about the vendor lock-in. If we're to colonise space, we shouldn't be reliant on coffee machines which need Earth-created capsules. This is inefficient and we need to spend more money working out how to grow coffee beans in space if we're ever going to get off this rock. Then again, if people will spend a lot of money on beans that have been shat by civets, think how much they may spend on orbital/lunar/martian beans.

    2. DropBear

      Re: A very well done

      Considering I'm pretty sure more or less every single viewer of the launch was there to see the landing, not the launch, I find people getting annoyed at the total lack of any coverage of it hardly surprising. As exciting and formidable a thing rocketry is, you have to remember that by Apollo 13, people only got interested after the tanks blew up - this is no different.

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: A very well done

        The barge is 300 miles away in the Atlantic - it's not that easy to get footage....especially live HD footage.

        People nowadays just have no patience.

        1. JeffyPoooh
          Pint

          Re: A very well done

          "...300 miles away in the Atlantic - it's not that easy to get footage...."

          Yeah, like BLOS HD Video has never been done before.

          {Rolls-eyes}

          1. James Hughes 1

            Re: A very well done

            Did I say it was impossible? No, didn't, I said it was difficult. Not perhaps technically difficult, but overall, difficult.

            Now go and install everything required for a HD capable satellite link on an unmanned barge. For the cost of simply bringing the SD cards back as the barge is towed in. Also, make the system literally bomb proof, because there is a big flamy thing going to be landing on or near it.

            Rolls eyes.

            1. JeffyPoooh
              Pint

              Re: A very well done

              You know that they sent near-Live video (certainly not HD) back from the fricken! Moon in fricken! 1969? Kids these days. Can't do this, can't do that. "It's difficult..." Bunch of pansies. ;-)

              HD is optional. Any off-the-shelf drone with a video link. A nearby ship within LOS to the drone (20 miles is easily do-able), with an H.264 video encoder to crunch the stream down to 432 kbps, and an Inmarsat internet link (common on ships). $30/minute for air time. Done.

              If you really want HD, then H.265 and drop the frame rate. Not worth the trade-off.

              Other satellite links are more bother. Not worth it.

              1. Wzrd1

                Re: A very well done

                "You know that they sent near-Live video (certainly not HD) back from the fricken! Moon in fricken! 1969?"

                Always some sap has to come in and tell other people how to spend more of their money, rather than be thankful that that sap actually was permitted to see a proprietary device in operation and later failure.

                Here's an idea, if you want to see that live, *you* work with the team and *you* pay for all of the involved costs.

                1. JeffyPoooh
                  Pint

                  Re: A very well done

                  Wzed1: "...*you*..."

                  I DID! I took my Gyrocopter out there and they chased me away! I ended landing in DC and got in trouble for that.

            2. Wzrd1

              Re: A very well done

              "Also, make the system literally bomb proof, because there is a big flamy thing going to be landing on or near it."

              Also, make the system literally bomb proof, because there is a big bomb, exploding in one direction (hopefully) going to be landing on or near it.

              A rocket is essentially, a huge bomb, which if properly constructed, only explodes continuously in one direction.

              When improperly constructed, or when things break, the rocket fully describes all characteristics of a bomb - a very, very large bomb.

              See Russian mishaps and NASA mishaps, the latest of which took a chunk off of an island launch facility.

  3. Camilla Smythe

    Meh

    Close but no banana... and probably never.

    Obviously I know fuck but why is it apparently being left exclusively to the rocket to pop its clogs on a bit of tarmac smeared on a barge in the middle of the sea and then fall over.

    It got launched from a 'gantry' why not stick one on the tarmac along with 'I'm Fucking Here, Where the Fuck are You?' communications and associated responses, to recover it....

    It's not 'rocket science'.

    Yo! Elon. Twat.

    I Thank You.

    1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      Re: Meh

      "Obviously I know fuck"

      Obviously.

    2. Mr Miser

      Re: Meh

      Are you a robot?

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Meh

      Camilla Smyth,

      Rocket go KABOOM! People of Florida sad. People of Florida even sadder, if rocket go oopsie missy landing pad, and go crash-bang-boom on their house.

      Then survivors hire lawyers. Or just get into pickups with rifle racks. And they hunt SpaceX and NASA and FAA, who allowed it. And so FAA say SpaceX have to go play whoosh-KABOOM far far out to sea...

      1. FrankAlphaXII
        Trollface

        Re: Meh

        I person of Florida.

        If SpaceX rocket go crash-bang-boom on house, lawn, car or pool, Person of Florida get angry, take week off work and drive to California in F-250 diesel of Michigan with AR-10 derivative of Florida to find South African paypal moneyman and NASA bureaucrat of Washington responsible. Open checkbook or PayPal account for new house, week's wages, plus ride on Dragon, person of Florida go home. Get Federal Firearms License, install FIM-92 around house regardless.

        1. Wzrd1

          Re: Meh

          "Get Federal Firearms License, install FIM-92 around house regardless."

          And get a wider burning debris field hitting your new home.

          I'd simply get a Mind and have it effector away the wayward rocket, then CAM dust SpaceX.

      2. JeffyPoooh
        Pint

        Re: Meh

        The SpaceX promotional video over-optimistically shows the rockets touching down right next to the brazzillion dollar launch installation.

        Another Musk exaggeration?

        1. JeffyPoooh
          Pint

          Re: Meh

          The Musk fanbois are so cute. Down voting any criticism of their man-love super hero. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

          Facts: The SpaceX promotional video DOES over-optimistically show the rockets touching down right next to the brazzillion dollar launch installation. And it IS another Musk exaggeration.

          Down vote away.

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. Wzrd1

        Re: Meh

        "Rocket go KABOOM! People of Florida sad. People of Florida even sadder, if rocket go oopsie missy landing pad, and go crash-bang-boom on their house."

        I don't know, I think if the rocket did the oopsie missy state and hit my house in Pennsylvania, it'd improve my property value.

        I'd also make a mint on selling tee shirts with "SpaceX launched a rocket through my house and all I got was this lousy tee shirt" on them.

        Assuming I wasn't home at the time. If I was home, I'd get pretty steamed. I mean really, it'd ruin my weekend plans, which would *really* burn me up!

        But, at least the asshole neighbors would be a distant memory.

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Meh

      "I know fuck but why is it apparently being left exclusively to the rocket to pop its clogs on a bit of tarmac smeared on a barge in the middle of the sea and then fall over."

      Because once SpaceX have proven they can do it without the "Fall down go boom" part - and do it reliably

      they'll be allowed to start doing land recoveries.

      The barge is at least about proving they can bring it back to a precision target as about landing the thing.

      1. Wzrd1

        Re: Meh

        "The barge is at least about proving they can bring it back to a precision target as about landing the thing."

        And a barge is a fuckton cheaper than launch complexes, incinerated lunch complexes full of workers and neighboring communities homes.

        As you said, an awshit at sea on an unmanned barge isn't really that big of a deal. A bit of fresh paint, everything's right as rain. Or, another barge gets floated.

    5. John 110

      Re: Meh

      @ Camilla Smythe

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2y8Sx4B2Sk

      That is all...

    6. Anonymous Blowhard

      Re: Meh

      "Obviously I know fuck"

      Or possibly even less...

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Steve Todd

          Re: Meh

          The first stage must land about 200 miles down range of the launch site (it both lifts the second stage upward and imparts some of the orbital velocity). Because returning back to the launch site would need too much fuel mass (velocity would need to be reversed and then it would need to be flown back along its track) and they launch from the coast (to avoid dropping exploding rockets on enhabited areas) the barge was the solution.

          1. Wzrd1

            Re: Meh

            "The first stage must land about 200 miles down range of the launch site (it both lifts the second stage upward and imparts some of the orbital velocity."

            Hmm, I was pondering that earlier, until the F bomb dusted the place. The altitude when it's jettisoned isn't awfully great, as it doesn't experience significant heating effects as it enters denser air. Got a reference figure on altitude when it jettisons and begins initial maneuvering?

            I suspect it's below or just at the Karman line.

        2. macjules Silver badge

          Re: Meh

          I gather that sometimes he makes an appearance on University Challenge, but that could be his younger brother F**k All. His first cousin is a lot more famous though - Jack Schitt.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: Meh

            Fuck is the guy whose parents have a cruel sense of humour.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Meh

              "Fuck is the guy whose parents have a cruel sense of humour."

              Was that Mr & Mrs Yoo ?

          2. Dan Paul

            Re: Meh @macjules

            I hear he has a new TV series too.

        3. Wzrd1

          Re: Meh

          "Who is this person called "Fuck"? I have never met him but I hear he knows a lot."

          Fucked if I know, but the fucker sure gets around a fucking lot, the fucker.

          Heard the fucker has a fucking lot of kids, millions of them.

    7. Camilla Smythe

      Re: Meh

      Please do take your down votes and stuff them where the sun don't shine...

      http://i.imgur.com/qKTo5ik.png

      Notice how long thin things are remarkably good at dangling from a wire but pretty crap at trying to stand on spindly legs. If the thing is 'almost' capable of manoeuvring onto a platform before falling over it should be more than capable of manoeuvring its HOOK onto a wire and then dangle in mid air.

      As I suggest it is not rocket science. Mr Musk can thank me later.

      1. Camilla Smythe

        Re: Meh

        Here we go... Having looked at the video it looks like a big issue is having the thing standing on its end being supported by the main engines at the bottom.. No idea where the 'cold thrusters' are located but you might hope that they are located at the top of the assembly. Either way with the main support at the bottom you have a system that very likely suffers from a right half plane zero... The balancing a pencil on the end of your finger scenario. The overall control bandwidth is crippled as a result. You can see it in the descent. 'Whoops. Bugger. Whoops. Shit. Whoops. Oh Crap. Fuck. Bollocks'..... It is perhaps apparent that they are trading off speed of landing for left over fuel. They might have more success if they took things slower but that would mean more fuel. Either rotate the nozzles or use thrust deflectors and land it on its head. Then the thing would be in the ideal dangle position and the main engines could be used for positioning as well as support thrust..

        http://i.imgur.com/7ZrjOOu.png

        It's not rocket science, cough,

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Launch_escape_system

        Notice how the centre of mass is maintained below the thrust.

        Mr Musk can thank me later.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Meh

          Having looked at the video it looks like a big issue is having the thing standing on its end being supported by the main engines at the bottom

          Camilla Smyth,

          True. But it can be done. See linky here to Grasshopper

          I'm not sure how your launch escape system example helps though. They don't land on the rocket power (that's used to get them to sufficient altitude to deploy parachutes), and they're designed that way because there's a bloody great rocket under the capsule, so the launch escape system has to be bolted onto the top. As I understand it you get different control issues when you attempt to have the centre of mass below the rockets - although with modern computer autopilots I suspect it's perfectly possible to correct for either. But rockets going up, and grasshoppers managing to land again, both suggest that SpaceX aren't doing anything inherently silly. They just have to get it to work. And I'd guess it's a lower priority, as they're not paying for special launches just for testing, but only doing it with left over rockets on other missions, which were going to be destroyed anyway.

          1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

            Re: Meh

            The divert video is even better for demonstrating it. They can take the falcon through some pretty extreme manoeuvres already and they've advanced their capabilities quite a bit from that test. The technology is there and it works in ideal conditions, so they just need to figure out how to deal with the less-than-ideal. They've already demonstrated that they can get it to the barge and set it down in one piece. Of course it fell over, exploded and sank in the swa- er, sea, but the next one will surely stand firm.

            Landing on a barge is harder than landing on land anyway. For one thing, the ground doesn't generally wobble up and down (unless you're having a really bad day).

            1. Camilla Smythe

              Re: Meh

              "The divert video is even better for demonstrating it. They can take the falcon through some pretty extreme manoeuvres already and they've advanced their capabilities quite a bit from that test."

              But the divert video is representative of the performance of The Banter Weight Grasshopper. It is apparent from the most recent video of The Super Heavy Weight Falcon that the resulting 'pretty extreme manoeuvres' that result when they attempt to 'scale' things produces unacceptable results.

              "Landing on a barge is harder than landing on land anyway. For one thing, the ground doesn't generally wobble up and down (unless you're having a really bad day)."

              Fine, my fault for being unable to express myself properly. I was not interested in the barge per se but rather the fact it represents their target area. The possibility that it might be moving up and down a bit does not detract from the fact the rocket itself was already a drunken sailor.

              "Just read the instructions" might wish to adopt and assert a new tenancy agreement in respect of 'Moving In' instructions.

          2. Camilla Smythe

            Re: Meh

            "I'm not sure how your launch escape system example helps though. They don't land on the rocket power (that's used to get them to sufficient altitude to deploy parachutes)."

            Granted but the point is that the thrust in this case and as proposed is located above the centre of mass such that the system is inherently stable prior to application of any control system.

            In the case of a SpaceX, any, launch the thing starts off slow and any thrusters or main engine control required to keep it pointing in the right direction do not have to respond rapidly. It is also leaving a fixed point and once it has left it need not care very much.

            Once its got up to speed the constraints are further relaxed because all the other bits have attained inertia in the right direction and the big one will be that when you have got a couple of hundred or more miles to go you are not really bothered about being a few miles out because you have time to correct things.

            It's a different kettle of kippers trying to come back down to a fixed point and the premise would be that what worked with the systems going up along with the associated relaxed constraints as you go through the phases concerned are in effect reversed when you come down so you no longer have the same degree of control if you attempt to rely on those same systems.

            Again from the video you can see the thing losing the plot. The control is bandwidth limited as a result of the masses being dealt with along with the nature of forces applied and then it is bandwidth limited because it is a balancing pencil exercise and then it is fuel/power/time limited.

            Assuming they had achieved the required level of control to land it I was not joking about hooking it up to a suspended wire. Apart from removing the requirement for 'feet' it seems to offer more degrees of freedom, reduce the opportunity for a hard smack followed by a skid and resulting fall over and perhaps relax requirements on the rocket itself.

            Standing it on its head with reverse thrusters or rotating nozzles would be a greater, totally back to the drawing board, engineering challenge but if it were considered from the outset then. Well who knows. I assume they will get there and I will get to suck lemons but for the moment it looks like they are constrained to making the wrong choices based on legacy.

            Perhaps Mr Musk plays golf?

            http://i.imgur.com/O1a07EW.png

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: Meh

              Camilla Smyth,

              I'm not a rocket scientist, but is the rocket even strong enough to land upside down? Remember that these things are made strong enough to surive what they do, and any extra gubbins that's fitted to make landing possible is going to compromise their ability to do their primary job.

              Now everything is a compromise in engineering. That's why SpaceX use kerosene, because it's so much cheaper than mucking around with liquid hydrogen, or all those horribly corrosive chemicals. Even though it loses them power.

              However there's no point in trying to hang your rocket from a wire, if that means making the thing significantly heavier.

              So they'll try the landing thing first. If they can get 100% accuracy at hitting (or nearly hitting) the barge, then I'm sure they will then be allowed to attempt desert landings - which don't suffer the marine problems of bad weather and bouncing up and down.

              I would imagine, though I haven't run the numbers, that it's cheaper to make the rockets worse at landing and have them regularly fall over and explode. Whereas making them better at landing costs more payload capacity - and therefore makes them worse at their primary job.

              As no-one else can yet re-use their rockets, there's much less pressure on SpaceX to get this right. Whereas other people can do manned launches, and put up satellites, so that's where SpaceX should be concentrating their R&D.

              After all, once they've beaten the problem of landing the things, assuming they can, they've then got to deal with actually re-using them. They've got to work out the safety margins for wear-and-tear, re-engineer stuff that isn't lasting, or decide to just replace some components after every launch. I don't believe that NASA saved much money on the Shuttle engines, as they had to be pretty much re-built after each use. At which point, SpaceX would probably be better spending R&D cash on cutting the cost of engine manufacturing (and throwing them away) - as you'll struggle to cut the labour costs much on a total rocket engine rebuild.

              What they're doing now has potential, and probably shouldn't be dimissed as a failure until they've got a couple of years experience at it.

              1. Camilla Smythe

                Re: Meh

                "However there's no point in trying to hang your rocket from a wire, if that means making the thing significantly heavier."

                Wrong point taken. What's the relative weight/complexity penalty of a hook on a pole versus four feet and their support structure and their falling over scenario.

                Maybe more importantly.

                Presumably rockets are designed to work better 'proper way up' in compression as opposed to 'the other way up' expansion. I might suggest an almost empty one going down might not suffer as much as a full one going up so once again the situation is relaxed..

                Presumably also the Kerosene, plus oxidiser assuming it is required in the atmosphere, ends up in the wrong place when your rocket is 'the wrong way up'. Perhaps in addition to other things more tubes would be required.

                Given they are apparently delicate structures and designed to the limits of what they are required to do then I might be more concerned about 'banging one down' and its skin and internals gaining ripples even if the stresses are in the right compressive direction.

                Going for a 'Twat Dangle' seems to be a much gentler solution.

                I do not deny it is impressive stuff beyond my clue but I assume someone has thought inside the box run the sums and reached the wrong solution.

                1. Mark 85 Silver badge

                  Re: Meh

                  You seem to be pushing for the Pogo landing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convair_XFY_Pogo) or similar. While not a bad idea, this has a lot of issues unto itself. One of the things that would add to complexity of the landing is the support structure and even the cabling itself. As I recall, one of the bigger problems with the concept was getting the hover time to effect such a landing. Hovering is a fuel sucker.

                2. Graham Dawson Silver badge

                  Re: Meh

                  Here's the thing: they very nearly did it. The craft suffered a sticky throttle valve, which caused the guidance computer to overcompensate. On only their second attempt they got it down to the barge and very nearly landed it, but that throttle problem scuppered it at the last moment.

                  Frankly your initial post was correct. You know fuck.

              2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Meh

                "If they can get 100% accuracy at hitting (or nearly hitting) the barge, then I'm sure they will then be allowed to attempt desert landings"

                You raise an interesting point there. I wonder what the FAA//NASA/relevant authorities conditions are on SpaceX WRT to landing on the barge? Must they prove a successful landing some number of times or merely prove accuracy before being allowed to use a land based pad?

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Meh

        Camilla Smyth,

        I presume you're trolling with your hook, in which case I congratulate you for your bumper catch.

        It looks rather a lot harder to land a rocket on a hook with horribly precise manoeuvring required at the last minute - than to deploy some legs and bang the thing down on the ground. Particularly as they're not even allowed to attempt this on land, until they've got some over-water successes on their hands first - and a hook on a tall stick on a barge is going to be a much worse moving target than the barge itself.

        The rocket is too heavy to be hooked by a passing helicopter or plane - and as I understand it putting wings on the rocket large enough for gliding also doesn't work.

        SpaceX have proved the rockets landing thing though, with their Grasshopper testbed. So we know this is possible. They've also proved the other unknown, which is the slowing down from launch speed - and getting from the upper atmosphere to low level in controlled flight, without breaking up due to g forces. I don't know if they've tested landing on the barge though. But otherwise they've done all the separate bits, it's now just a question of bringing it all together.

        The top priority has to be getting the dinner to the ISS, without blowing it up. That's what their reputation, and NASA funding, relies on. And they've got to avoid getting complacent and screwing that up. Meanwhile they've got an almost free test vehicle to keep tinkering with, each time they send a disposable rocket to the ISS - plus they've got all the R&D to do on their new Dragon2 manned capsule.

      3. iranu

        Re: Meh

        Sorry I down voted you before I saw your picture. I should have up-voted because the picture is hilarious and made me laugh. However, I think Poe's Law applies.

    8. Wzrd1

      Re: Meh

      "Obviously I know fuck"

      No, you don't even know fuck.

      It's quite likely you'll never be privileged enough to know fuck personally.

      So, perhaps you should leave the criticism for those who far more than fuck.

      So, do feel free to fuck off.

  4. Martin Budden

    Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee........

    "drugs to combat osteoporosis during long periods in free fall"

    Is it even possible to fall from high enough that osteoporosis becomes a problem before lithobraking becomes a problem? Alan Eustace only fell for 15 minutes and he's the current record holder.

    1. Oldfogey

      Re: Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee........

      Of course you can fall for longer than 15 minutes. Just start high enough and miss the planet on the way down.

      Best that way, as hitting the planet is not good, even for a blue whale (or a pot of petunias).

      1. beast666

        Re: Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee........

        No. Go fast enough in the right direction and you will never hit the planet.

        1. Martin Budden

          Re: Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee........

          Go fast enough in the right direction and you will never hit the planet.

          But that isn't "falling".

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee........

            "But that isn't "falling"."

            Your right! Its falling with style!

          2. Paul Kinsler Silver badge

            Re: [if] you will never hit the planet --> But that isn't "falling".

            But it is if you are aimed at the Sun...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee........

          > Go fast enough in the right direction

          it's actually more to the left

    2. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee........

      No - the record holder will be an astronaut - pretty much all of them beat 15 minutes...

      Orbit is merely the act of falling, but missing the planet. So the longest ISS resident probably holds the record. Gravity is about 90% of earth surface normal up there, they are not strictly weightless, it's just that everything is falling at the same rate, so there is no apparent weight.

      Interestingly of course if there weren't people and fans moving the air around then eventually everything would settly against either the "top" or the "bottom" surfaces of the ISS - because the orbit of the shell is about it's CoM, any thing (dust, paper whatever) will fall towards the "floor", anything that starts higher will "fall" towards the ceiling. Anything on that centre line will be disturbed by brownium motion and then take one of the above paths...

      1. Vulch

        Re: Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee........

        So the longest ISS resident probably holds the record.

        Valeri Polyakov on Mir actually, 437.7 days in one stretch.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee........

          > Valeri Polyakov on Mir actually, 437.7 days in one stretch.

          Mir and also the ISS use rockets to bump them back up every so often, as such I contend that they are actually hovering rather than falling and missing the planet.

          Probably the longest fallers were amongst the astronauts on the moon which is properly falling all the time.

          1. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee........

            OK - whet's the longest duration between boosts then - they are falling, but they are losing energy as they hit the (rather thin) atmosphere. The boosts make up for this energy loss.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee........

        "Brownium Motion" - Alright mate....

  5. Mag07

    Who cares about the landing - they delivered coffee!

    1. ravenviz Silver badge
      Coat

      Re:

      I inagine the astronauts will be full of beans once they get it installed!

  6. Duffy Moon
    Pint

    Which is it?

    "The "ISSpresso" machine was developed by Lavazza and Argotec and can percolate small cups of caffeinated goodness for the inhabitants."

    So is it an espresso machine (as implied by the name) or a percolator (as implied by the article).

    Bored minds need to know...

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: Which is it?

      "Bored minds need to know..."

      Well Wired has a nice diagram showing how it works here:

      http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2014-06/14/isspresso

      I was a bit surprised. I was expecting something similar to a 'siphon' pot (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_coffee_maker) since they don't need gravity to work, but it actually uses a pump to force the water through the system.

      1. Keef

        Re: Which is it?

        Why not drink tea, much nicer than coffee and no fancy equipment required, just good taste!

        A bit like (allegedly) the Americans spending millions developing a pen to work in space when the Russians just used a pencil.

        Some Ginger Nut biscuits for dunking would be required too, but that's also low tech so easy to stick on a supply boat.

        1. PNGuinn
          FAIL

          Re: Which is it?

          Or even better, probe the victim's taste buds to determine what they would like before dispensing something....

        2. notowenwilson

          Re: Which is it?

          As it happens, the russians just bought the american pens for a couple of dollars a piece and used them.

          Using a graphite pencil in space is a really bad idea for a bunch of reasons. Graphite is conductive so any small bits of it floating around are likely to end up in some electrical circuit or another and cause a short. Pencils break much more often than pens which is a pain if you're in a time critical environment such as a space flight, and even when they aren't breaking, pencils still need periodic sharpening, hugely contributing to the first issue.

          As far as I can remember, NASA didn't actually pay for the development of the 'space pen', it was developed privately to allow people to write on a vertical surface which would normally starve the ball of ink due to gravity draining the ink away from the ball. The whole 'space pen' thing was just marketing.

          1. SolidSquid

            Re: Which is it?

            iirc they didn't use graphite pencils, they used wax pencils which broke less, didn't create dust and were less of a problem even if they did break (insulator, so no short circuits, and soft enough to reduce the chance of jamming anything)

            1. Peter Simpson 1
              Childcatcher

              Re: Which is it?

              Is this my chance to whine about the lack of quality pencils nowadays? They all seem to use this polymer-bound graphite dust and write like cr@p. Not like the pencils we had when I was a lad...

        3. Any mouse Cow turd

          Re: Which is it?

          Have you tried a cup of tea made in America!? Tasty it is not.

          When you buy one you are given a cup of warm water and a tea bag. The best bit is that the wrapper of the bag has full instructions (place bag in cup and pour on boiling water) and they still fail.

          1. Roger Varley

            Re: Which is it?

            > Have you tried a cup of tea made in America!? Tasty it is not.

            Indeed. There is an argument that states that the Boston Tea Party was not so much an act of rebellion, rather it was a misunderstanding over the recipe.

        4. hplasm
          Happy

          Re: Which is it?

          Next: Spacex deliver to the ISS a machine to make a substance almost entirely but not quite unlike tea... unrest is born and spreads throughout the galaxy.

          Inhabitants warned "Not to Panic"...

        5. AIBailey

          Re: Which is it?

          Some Ginger Nut biscuits for dunking would be required too

          Indeed, and at least in micro gravity there's little chance of the biscuit breaking off and falling to the bottom of your coffee.

        6. macjules Silver badge

          Re: Which is it?

          Exactly what I was thinking. Why not just supply a cold filtering unit? Not sure about recycled urine and Earl Grey though, and don't forget that the Americans put lemon in their tea, not milk.

        7. Uffish

          Re: Teatime on ISS

          It seems that teabags are standard issue on ISS :- http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/station/crew/exp6/spacechronicles5.html

          Whether they have ever been used to make real tea is another matter.

      2. PNGuinn
        Joke

        Re: Which is it? "I was expecting something similar to a 'siphon' pot "

        Don't you mean "something similar to a p**s pot"??

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Which is it?

      >So is it an espresso machine (as implied by the name) or a percolator (as implied by the article).

      The two terms are not mutually exclusive: "To percolate" means to cause a liquid to pass through a filter.... an espresso machine is merely one way of achieving that.

      But yeah, it's a form of espresso machine, 400 bar if Wired's diagram is to be believed.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Landing a rocket is retarded

    Has anyone actually done a cost/benefit analysis of this to see if it's worth the enormous amount of engineering that must be required to attempt this? All to just recover an empty stage?

    A rocket is by nature designed to do one thing - travel as fast as possible in one direction without exploding. You are adding to that primary function a completely inverted flight profile where everything from flight surfaces to geometry to control mechanics is exactly bass ackward from the first half of the mission.

    It's like driving an F1 car but at the halfway point they have to stop, drop part of its chassis, turn around, and continue the trip in reverse. From an accounting perspective, after all the costs and performance penalties are factored in, is it still worth it? Why not just use a chute like they did in the '60's?

    These Musk projects get lots of headlines but I wonder if 10 years from now any of these things will still be in use, there doesn't seem to be any actual useful engineering going on.

    1. stucs201

      Re: Has anyone actually done a cost/benefit analysis of this

      Yes.

      Some bloke called Elon Musk probably has.

      I don't think he's doing this *just* because it's cool (though it is).

    2. Grikath

      Re: Landing a rocket is retarded

      To use your F1 analogy: Try racing when you have to chuck out and replace the engine every single lap. Things get expensive that way....

      As for parachutes... They tend to drift a bit, and while slowing you down, do not make for a very soft landing. Wich is why the Russians use Siberia and retro rockets, and the US the ocean. With the added disadvantage of the ocean that salt water tends to disagree severely with high-precision parts, and you need quite a number of ships of sufficient cruise speed to be in the several-square miles landing zone. Also, the ocean makes for a bad campsite if pickup gets delayed a bit.

      It remains to be seen if the Dragon engines are reusable after launch, but Musk must first prove he can Hit the Spot Marked "X" reliably and without much Boomage to several stuffy officials and potentially armed and angry locals ( for reasons explained earlier in this thread).

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Landing a rocket is retarded

        @Grikath,

        "To use your F1 analogy: Try racing when you have to chuck out and replace the engine every single lap. Things get expensive that way...."

        SpaceX a long time ago were confident that they could get the manufacturing costs of their rocket down so that disposability was very affordable. They had some good ideas. For example the way their first (and current?) engine bells were designed was clever; ever so slightly heavier and slightly less performance than an 'ultimate' design, but very easy (= cheap) to make.

        I don't know how that worked out, but the drive for re-usability is either because the 'cheap to build' approach didn't pan out or they're going for dropping the launch price even further. It's probably a bit of both.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Landing a rocket is retarded

      The great thing about private enterprise is that I don't care if it doesn't make sense because I'm not paying for it. It's interesting to see if it works, but if it doesn't, not my problem.

      Incidentally ULA have kicked off a related re-use program apparently involving helicopters, parachutes and presumably a massive catcher's mitt, which promises to be very entertaining.

      http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-catch-a-rocket-with-a-helicopter-1429055300

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: Landing a rocket is retarded

        Christ on a bike, there are some dumb AC's out there.

        Do you honestly believe that SpaceX would be spending the amount of money they are on getting this to work if they didn't have some really good reasons for doing so? Like actually working out what it was going to save?

        Musk is not stupid man. You clearly are. Or woman.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. JeffyPoooh
        Pint

        Re: Landing a rocket is retarded

        BC: "Just being able to get back the 9 engines and service them for reuse (like the Shuttles engines) would provide a massive cost saving."

        Don't use the Space Shuttle's reusability as an example of "massive cost saving".

        Well over a BILLEEEEON dollars per launch.

  8. ADC

    Barge motion?

    Is the barge simply floating normally? The oil companies in the North Sea have used large semi-submersible barges with multi-axis dynamic positioning thrusters for years to keep a crane platform.stable while assembling stuff onto an oil rig.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Barge motion?

      No it's not, it's held in position with azimuth thrusters.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomous_spaceport_drone_ship

      Unsurprisingly they're aware of obvious stuff.

  9. gregthecanuck

    To the barge!

    (rocket lands diagonally and explodes)

    - "Dang it!"

    To the barge!

    (second rocket skews, tips over and explodes)

    - "Dang it!"

    1. hplasm
      Happy

      Re: - "Dang it!"

      "But the third one stayed up! One day, Elon, all this will be yours"

      "What? The curtains?"

  10. Salamander

    I think is great and give me hope for the future where we can all have a trip into space for the price of an airline ticket.

    I can't wait to book a ticket on EasyRocket or RyanSpace.

    1. Andy E

      RyanSpace

      With RyanSpace oxygen will be an optional extra not covered by the initial ticket price.

  11. frank ly

    "Just read the instructions".

    Did the barge name itself?

    1. BoldMan

      Re: "Just read the instructions".

      There will soon be complaints that the names are too frivolous and should have more gravitas...

  12. short

    If it's just the last few meters causing trouble, can't they just have a huge ball pit on top of the barge?

    (some thermal issues and a probable need for a clamshell to close over the engine, and probably a million other problems. But yay, massive ballpit).

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Why not a big tank of wobbly, shock-absorbing, vodka jelly? Cushions the landing, and gives the maintenance crew something to celebrate with afterwards.

  13. phuzz Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Video

    There's video from a chase plane of the last few seconds of descent onto the barge here:

    https://vine.co/v/euEpIVegiIx

    Closer than last time...

    Elon Musk's tweet from just afterwards made me grin as well:

    Elon Musk ‏@elonmusk

    If this works, I'm treating myself to a volcano lair. It's time.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Video

      To my untutored eye the descent velocity looks quite high all the way down to the barge. Even Neil Armstrong had time to hover and maneouvre a bit before actually touch down, and he'd gone all the way to the moon, not just a quick hop into the outer atmosphere!

      Looks like the control system hadn't achieved stable control over the rocket's orientation either, it's weaving all over the place.

      Getting closer though

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: Video

        Even at lowest thrust the single running Merlin engine has a T/W ratio > 1 over the empty stage, so it needs to 'hoverslam', i.e. high G deceleration at last second reaching 0m/s at deck height.

        Ther ewas a sticky valve somewhere that cause delays in the control system, which they think causes the wiggling.

  14. bazza Silver badge

    Needs One of These

    Helicopter grab grill on HMS St Albans. There's a hook that the ship's helo can push through this as it lands, instant grab. Stops the helo rolling all over the place.

    These are so effective that when divers went down to the wreck of one of ships sunk in the Falklands war, they found that the Lynx that had gone down with it was still attached, hanging upside down (the ship had capsized), after all these years.

    1. Gideon 1

      Re: Needs One of These

      Many of the good ideas have already been invented. They could make the entire deck of the barge out of that grab grill, the landing wouldn't need to be so precise, and the rocket exhaust would go straight through, reducing the landing flare (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landing_flare) instability.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rocket tipping over

    Is there any merit to the idea of making the rocket feet strongly magnetic, and cladding the barge top with steel?

    1. cray74

      Re: Rocket tipping over

      Magnetic fields drop off with the cube of radius, so magnetic feet won't help until the rocket has already touched down.

      The problem with both SpaceX barge crashes has been that at the moment of touchdown, the rocket still has quite a bit of horizontal speed. A software fix that gets the Falcon 9 hovering stationary in midair before settling - like the SpaceX "Grasshopper" flights - would probably be easier than re-engineering the landing legs with heavy magnetic systems that don't address the root cause.

      1. D@v3

        Re: Magnets

        If I remember correctly, high temperatures can have an unpleasant effect on magnets.

  16. Truffle

    I'm just disappointed that they are not landing in some secret volcano base.

    Elon Musk needs to work on his Bond Villain.

    1. anothercynic Silver badge

      Truffle... have a look ;-)

      https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/588144086755999744 :-)

  17. Anne-Lise Pasch

    There's coffee in space now?

    Sign me up!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    I dunno but

    Take off from a barge, ok.... but why try to land on a barge? Theres all that desert and empty land you could use as it normally doesnt go up and down a lot.

    Give them a drink anyhow as its very entertaining seeing stuff fall over

    1. Owain 1

      Re: I dunno but

      Apparently camels have lawyers, and blue whales do not.

    2. cray74

      Re: I dunno but

      "Take off from a barge, ok.... but why try to land on a barge? Theres all that desert and empty land you could use as it normally doesnt go up and down a lot."

      The answer is a combination of launch constraints and first stage performance.

      Launch constraints (like location of the rocket company and import/export rules) have required a US launch pad.

      Launch constraints like, "Have a big, open area where rocket confetti has a small risk of hitting Americans" discourages inland launches. The US's western deserts are big, open, and lightly populated compared to Europe, but they ain't Kazakhastan or Siberia. Note Vandenberg on the US West Coast is pretty limited in its launch directions, mostly over-the-pole shots, because the US doesn't like rockets flying inland. So, east coast launchers are preferable.

      Launch constraints like "try to be reasonably far south to exploit equatorial spin velocity" on top of the above constraints leads to Texan, Floridian, or Puerto Rican launch sites. High inclination shots from Texas (e.g., to the ISS) run into issues that rockets will pass over the US interior, so Florida and Puerto Rico have been on the short list of launch sites, with northerly Virginia sites sometimes used to capture exploding, Russian-powered rocket debris. Florida has an advantage in rocket infrastructure and aerospace lobbying experience over Puerto Rico, so flights end up launching from there.

      The next issue is rocket performance. The first stages of rockets generally do not get very far from the coast. After heaving second stages above the atmosphere and through that first few thousands of miles per hour, first stages generally can only make it 50 to 300 miles from Florida.

      This is well short of any landing in the Sahara desert or Spain (as the shuttle considered for certain, brief parts of its ascent). Generally - until SpaceX's Falcon 9 v1.1 - the first stages were designed to be out of fuel by the time they dropped away, so a return-to-launch site was strictly an insane option for US shuttle emergencies. Really, look up a shuttle RTLS abort, flying mach 5 backwards. Awesome stuff, but not for the faint of heart.

      Anyway, the Falcon 9 v1.1 first stage is running light on fuel by stage separation so allowing aerodynamic drag to perform a fuel-saving braking maneuver and then using a little remaining rocket fuel is easiest. Given launch constraints and performance constraints, that means the first stage is going to be settling in the ocean some hundreds of miles off the coast of Florida. You need a barge, or a rocket-sized swimming suit.

      Eventually SpaceX wants to improve performance until landing back at Florida is an option, but - as noted by other commenters - they'd prefer to do that after the crashing and exploding bugs are worked out. There are more people in Florida than on the SpaceX barges.

  19. Alistair
    Boffin

    ISS has decent coffee?

    Where I can sign up?

    On the other side of the issue:

    what brainless twats think this is "failed"?

    assignment for brainless twats that think this is failed.

    go to store, pick up a box of plastic drinking straws.

    go to any local store that carries BB's (for air guns), buy 10 cases.

    head off to your nearest large highway. Place an empty pop can on one side of the highway, opened and drained.

    Cross the highway carefully. Spend rush hour using the straw to launch bb's across the highway into the small round opening at the top of the can, *past* all the vehicles on the highway.

    Eventually you will acquire the skill to get a BB into the can. But I'll bet it takes a bit more than 3 shots to get it.

  20. iOS6 user

    Is not would would be better to add some parachutes to save more fuel on last few seconds of landing? Lets allow gravity and aerodynamics do more job on landing.

    Some smaller last stage parachute should be able to stabilize vertical position of whole rocket during landing.

    Maybe adding some small maneuvering rocket engines operating horizontally would allow hold more stable horizontal position?

  21. IanDs

    IIRC Musk reckoned that soft-landing and re-using the boosters would cut the cost per pound (or kilo) to orbit by maybe 5x -- and they're already less than half the price of the competition...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They are getting paid well for their services

    If they can recover the first stag then it's even more money in the bank. The U.S. was foolish to ever get involved with Russia on the ISS as the Russian gov'ment is unstable and imperialistic as we see daily. I'll bet the nauts are fun to watch in the ISS when amped up on caffeine. LOL Those crazy 'talians gotta have espresso.

  23. Conundrum1885

    Maglev

    Big superconducting toroidal magnet which "catches" the stage no matter how fast it is falling, sort of like the demo where you drop a neodymium magnet down a narrow pipe and it falls really slowly.

    That way the rocket stage will bounce off the field and in theory could be captured non destructively even for extreme angles of descent.

    Variant of this, ramp up the field to 28T (feasible with a 30 metre diameter toroidal MgB2 coil) and this should add the required stability when they need it.

    Just my $0.02 worth.

  24. Stevie

    Bah!

    Looking good ...left hand down a bit ... left hand ... left ... LEFT ... YOUR LEFT AAARRRGGGHHH!

    Oh this takes me back to so many projects of my youth. Oh the happy days spent planning and building. Oh the happy nights in the Coventry and Warwick Casualty Waiting Room.

  25. smartypants

    Behaviourally tested?

    Bringing order to an unstable system (like a bit of a rocket which would prefer to hurtle into the ocean) with software is hindered by three problems:

    1. accuracy (resolution and latency) of information collected from sensors to feed into the computation

    2. accuracy (resolution and latency) of whatever controls they have to actuate. (Fuel flow, gyroscopes etc)

    3. the design of the computation itself!

    It would be great to see their behavioural test suite User Stories.

    Feature: Land a rocket stage

    "In order to get our rocket back it must land on a barge on the right end without breaking or exploding"

    Scenario: "The rocket ends on its right end without breaking, exploding or falling over"

    Given The second stage has just separated

    And the first stage is going to hurtle towards the ocean unless we do something about it

    ...

    (etc.)

  26. iranu

    Lunar Lander

    Makes me want to go and play Lunar Lander.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Just read the instructions"

    I'm guessing whoever named the landing pad is a fan of the sadly departed Ian M Banks. Definitely sounds like one of the Culture Ship/Mind names.

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: "Just read the instructions"

      Er, Yes. A well known fan of Banks is one Elon Musk.

  28. Stuart Moore
    Joke

    I blame the software...

    ... I heard it was a floating point error

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    We're at 148 comments now, so somebody else might have already asked this...

    I wonder how much it is costing SpaceX to keep repainting that barge?

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