Dramatic Sequence of Photos of Falcon 9 Stage Hitting the Barge

Credit: SpaceX

Twitter Commentary From Elon Musk: Before impact, fins lose power and go hardover. Engines fights to restore, but….

Credit: SpaceX)
Credit: SpaceX)

Rocket hits hard at ~45 deg angle, smashing legs and engine section

Credit: SpaceX)
Credit: SpaceX)

Residual fuel and oxygen combine

Credit: SpaceX
Credit: SpaceX

Full RUD (rapid unscheduled disassembly) event. Ship is fine minor repairs. Exciting day!

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Hat’s off to Space X for sharing this with the world. For the types of folks who are attracted to corporate boards and governments airing dirty laundry is hard. So we should recognize the mental effort of the leadership to show this. For those who subscribe to a heroic world view and don’t like to see/show failure, think of all the things a set of images like this means. They got a freaking rocket from the flight regime of the SR-71 to a point on the surface of the Earth in a controlled fashion and lost it in the engineering niceties of the last 200 odd feet. Keeping in mind that this technique was pioneered only 20 years ago and done by so few teams I’ll bet each effort had to re-learn how to do it. Consider their progress against the US’ other engineering programs of note, F-35, 787, choose your fav previous NASA launch scheme that was abandoned, F-22, CVN-X, LCS, the list is long. Great work Space X and good on you for going public.

  • Matt

    Boldness is one of Musk’s major strength.

  • Enrique Moreno

    Congratulations, SpaceX. You was very close!!

  • Tonya


    I’m still impressed by the targeting, I though the odds of hitting the barge with the level of flight testing they’ve had were quite low.

  • Michael Vaicaitis
  • Kirk

    Wow! Rock on SpaceX! Mad props for sharing this with the world. Now can we see the next few seconds of aftermath?

  • justchaz

    “rapid unscheduled disassembly”
    Nope, We are SpaceX. We do not engage in that gobbledygook. 😉

  • DavidR2015

    I don’t think that Doug Messier has posted the pictures of the barge returning to port with the damage showing. It appears that in terms of accuracy, they came down on one end of the barge rather than in the centre. If the barge is around 300 feet long, then the “miss” was around 150 feet or 50 metres, which is good when you consider that before they had a 10km radius landing elipse.
    The barge pictures are here:

  • Larry J

    It’s even better when you factor in that the control grids were locked into a non-centered position and the rocket engine was trying to fight that with thrust vector control (and perhaps no roll control). Musk has already said that they’re increasing the hydraulic fluid capacity by 50% for the next attempt. That may well solve the problem.

  • Kirk

    Or as Musk just put it on Twitter: “Next rocket landing on drone ship in 2 to 3 weeks w way more hydraulic fluid. At least it shd explode for a diff reason.”

  • Christopher James Huff

    The only way you can control vehicle attitude by the engine at the bottom is by vectoring thrust, which means the vehicle’s then accelerating sideways away from the course it wants. It then has to push attitude over in the opposite direction to correct this, and adjust thrust to compensate for being lower and faster than desired. You might still manage a vertical descent in the proper location without the control surfaces at the top, but it may take more propellant or more throttle range than you have, or faster adjustments than you can make.

    And if those control surfaces aren’t gone, but are actually fighting you during the last moments of landing…I’m really surprised they managed to hit the platform at all. The fact that it actually made it there despite the grid fins going bad should give lots of confidence in its ability to control its landing location.


    I think the fin hard lockdown made the vehicle lean in direction the vehicle was going. So the thrust vectoring sped the vehicle up at the last minute which is why it came in so fast bouncing off the deck.