SpaceX launched its Falcon Heavy rocket on Tuesday for the third time since its February 2018 debut. The mission successfully deployed 24 satellites into orbit, but the powerful rocket's landing wasn’t so smooth.
In the hours after the booster crashed, the Internet was full of theories about what went wrong.
Musk spills the beans
CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk took to Twitter to fill in the gaps in response to questions from SpaceX fans.
Musk said the booster likely got damaged on its re-entry due to force and heat and that this caused a failure, which prevented the booster from being able to control itself to make a safe landing.
High entry force & heat breached engine bay & center engine TVC failed— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 26, 2019
The booster was set to touch down on its floating pad site, dubbed ‘Of Course I Still Love You.’ The booster only just missed its intended location, which is very impressive considering the potential damage it suffered.
You can see the full video of the landing below. At one point it looks like everything was going perfectly until the booster drifts off towards the end and suffers a watery ending to its epic journey.
This isn’t a big deal as reusable rockets are still a pretty novel idea but its a central one for SpaceX, to be able to cut costs and do more launches more often.
Right now, it seems feasible that SpaceX is going through a few boosters to achieve its long term goal of being able to land and reuse them. As long as the company keeps delivering its payloads on time and without issue, its investors and customers are likely to stay happy.
The next Falcon Heavy launch is scheduled for 2020.
The US Air Force (USAF) was monitoring the launch of the rocket closely as Space Test Program 2 (STP-2), the name given to this mission. It will provide the necessary proof of the reusability of SpaceX's rockets, which will then supply a template for the future certification of other reusable rockets for military payloads.
The US military is keen to be at the forefront of the growing industry of reusable rockets and is looking to regulate what is being developed.
Key officials observed the launch and recovery of the Falcon Heavy's side boosters, and they will continue to monitor the refurbishment and reusability of these items. The mission will give the USAF the information it needs to fully get behind SpaceX's technology and use it for launching military satellites.