SpaceX Launches Dragon Resupply Ship to ISS; First Stage Lands in Ocean

SpaceX successfully launched a Dragon resupply ship to the International Space Station on Wednesday. In a minor setback, the attempt to recover the first stage failed, with a “water landing” just off shore instead of at the planned landing zone.

“Grid fin hydraulic pump stalled, so Falcon landed just out to sea,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted. “Appears to be undamaged & is transmitting data. Recovery ship dispatched.”

Video of the launch showed the booster spinning rapidly as it descended after separating from the second stage. NASA and SpaceX cut off the video feed from the stage’s on-board camera before it hit the ocean.

The second stage carried Dragon the rest of the way to orbit. The supply ship separated as planned from the stage and unfurled two solar panels to generate power.

It was the first failed ground landing for a Falcon 9 first stage. The company failed to land a number of stages on off-shore drone ships.

The Falcon 9 booster was a new one. The Dragon spacecraft was previously used for the CRS-10 mission in February 2017. it was the 20th SpaceX launch of 2018, a total that includes 19 Falcon 9 and one Falcon Heavy flights.

Dragon is filled with more than 5,600 pounds of supplies and payloads, including critical materials to directly support more than 250 science and research investigations that will occur onboard the orbiting laboratory.

Dragon will arrive at the space station on Saturday. Crew members will capture the spacecraft with the station’s robotic arm and berth it with the orbiting laboratory.

CRS-16 is the sixteenth of up to 20 missions to the International Space Station that SpaceX will fly for NASA under the first CRS contract. NASA has also contracted with SpaceX to continue resupplying the space station through 2024.

  • Kirk

    Musk: Grid fin hydraulic pump stalled, so Falcon landed just out to sea. Appears to be undamaged & is transmitting data. Recovery ship dispatched.

    Q: Can be reused once fished out ?
    Musk: We may use it for an internal SpaceX mission

    Q: Is there one pump for all fins (Presumably with backup).
    Musk: Pump is single string. Some landing systems are not redundant, as
    landing is considered ground safety critical, but not mission critical.
    Given this event, we will likely add a backup pump & lines.

    Q: Will we ever get to see the video?
    Musk: Yes, cutaway was a mistake. We will show all footage, good or bad.

  • Paul_Scutts

    “cutaway was a mistake” … absolutely right, avoid “NASA Think” like it’s the plague (which it is). Saw a bit of booster hardware pass by, announcer called it “ice” (been NASA’ised), thought, that’s not good … and it wasn’t. 🙂

  • Robert G. Oler


  • duheagle

    As always these days, you need to be more specific. Are you saying the F9 S1 misadventure was a fantasy? Or is it the recovery from same and the water landing that left the S1 intact or nearly so that we’re supposed to disbelieve? Or is it some third thing? One would be tempted to say your recent posts increasingly resemble horoscopes but for the fact that horoscopes are both clearer and more specific than your comments.

  • duheagle

    Yes, the cutaway was a chickens**t thing to do. I hope whomever the webcast director was gets his or her hand appropriately slapped for it. The webcast director for the CRS-7 mission was obviously made of far sterner stuff.

    Anyone who watches these mission webcasts regularly could see immediately that something wasn’t right as soon as that quick roll started up. Cutting away left us all imagining the worst instead of the very impressive recovery on view when the relevant video was belatedly released.

    A bad, and unforced, PR error on SpaceX’s part.

  • Robert G. Oler

    the booster or its parts willnever fly again..

  • Robert G. Oler
  • Richard Malcolm

    Well, the gridfins will certainly be salvaged, if nothing else. They aren’t cheap, and salt water isn’t going to affect titanium.