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.