Three minutes until launch of Space-X’s CRS-16

This rocket will resupply the International Space Station. Watch NOW! If you missed the launch (successful so far), the booster is going to do the patented Space-X vertical recovery at Cape Canaveral.

SpaceX is targeting Wednesday, December 5 for the launch of its sixteenth Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-16) to the International Space Station. Liftoff is targeted for 1:16 p.m. EST, or 18:16 UTC, from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Dragon will be 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. The Dragon spacecraft that will support the CRS-16 mission previously supported the CRS-10 mission in February 2017.

Following stage separation, SpaceX will attempt to recover Falcon 9’s first stage on Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

It looks as if the booster fell into the sea instead of landing neatly and recover-ably, but they cut off the cameras right before that happened. Not fair!

h/t: Grania


  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 5, 2018 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I take it the stage one re-entry got wet.

  2. Posted December 5, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    When we saw the first stage start spinning, you know something was going wrong. Still, I would have liked to have seen it. Censorship! Though I suspect the “water landing” will make it to YouTube eventually.

    • Posted December 5, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      I can’t believe they cut off the video, and then the Space-X flacks tried to claim that it didn’t matter. I WANT TO SEE THE FAILED PART TOO!

      It’s still all amazing, though.

      • Posted December 5, 2018 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        I am behind SpaceX 100% but we all like to see a good crash where no one gets hurt.

  3. rickflick
    Posted December 5, 2018 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    The payload looks to be on target. As soon as first stage began to wobble it looked doomed. I hope and expect they’ll find the cause and fix it.

    • Posted December 5, 2018 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      I didn’t go back and look but I got the impression that one of the air brakes had rotated to its limit and was producing the spin. Of course, it could also have been a reaction to the spin whose purpose was to correct it. Which of those should be easy to tell based on which way it is tilted. Or we can wait for the official explanation and video.

      • rickflick
        Posted December 5, 2018 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

        I think a small controlled rotation makes sense, but spinning?

        • Posted December 5, 2018 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

          I was right. Broken air brake hydraulics.

          • rickflick
            Posted December 5, 2018 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

            That sounds like something they can fix.

            • Posted December 6, 2018 at 10:14 am | Permalink

              Yes but it may be harder to determine the cause. That’s the trouble with rockets. One thing goes wrong and it crashes.

  4. darrelle
    Posted December 5, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Apparently it was a grid fin failure. SpaceX says the hydraulic pump that controls one of the grid fins failed. Amazingly the booster still managed a soft landing, though in the water of course. It is still transmitting and “appears to otherwise be undamaged.” Meaning, I guess, that what telemetry they are receiving from it doesn’t show any failures or damage other than the grid fin hydraulic pump. But landing in salt water has got to be quite the mess to clean up.

    Here is a clip of the landing posted in a CBS article.

    SpaceX Falcon 9 CRS-16 Landing failure. (Landed in water)

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 5, 2018 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      But landing in salt water has got to be quite the mess to clean up.

      I’m sure it is. But on the other hand there are at least two North Sea helicopter airframes which have been pulled out of the water, stripped for the crash investigation, then re-inspected and recertified for airworthiness. The sub-text is – it’s still cheaper than new-build.
      I would be utterly unsurprised to learn that there are airliners which have done the same. To get a low-impact landing on water, you’re pretty much defining the CFIT (controlled Flight Into Terrain – a necessary but deeply unpleasant concept) as being on approach to landing (or immediately after take off) at a coastal airport.

      • darrelle
        Posted December 5, 2018 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I would not be surprised to see this booster relaunched.

      • Posted December 5, 2018 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        Wasn’t this a booster they had used twice already? They might retire it just to be on the safe side, almost certainly if its reuse was a contributing cause.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 5, 2018 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I believe that you’re right in that it had been used twice already.
          OTOH, that makes it doubly valuable, on the “Ford kingpins” principle. If they can find the problems, repair what is necessary, re-furbish the rest, then re-launch with a “disposable” payload (another car, whatever) they’re in a relatively good position to find the next-weakest link. Lather, rinse, repeat until something breaks, big-style.

        • darrelle
          Posted December 5, 2018 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

          I’m not sure. I know the F-9 that launched from Vandenberg on Monday had been previously launched 2 times. I think this launch must have been a new booster because all the block-4 boosters are out of service and the block-5 that launched for the 3rd time on Monday was the first block-5 booster to enter service and there haven’t been very many block-5 launches.

          Heck, why don’t I just check?

          Yep, this booster was brand spanking new.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 5, 2018 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

      A landing in salt water, I believe, is equivalent to crashing and exploding. Salt water makes the rocket engines useless. Corrosion of parts that have very tight tolerances to begin with is the death knell.

      • darrelle
        Posted December 6, 2018 at 7:12 am | Permalink

        Probably not quite that bad, but I’m not sure. I think you are probably right about systems like the engines. If salt water got into the engines they are probably not worth anything but scrap. But as Aidan mentioned above the basic structure of the booster is probably worth salvaging.

        I’m very interested to hear more about the condition of this booster and if any of it is salvaged for further use. Rather than a negative I think this mishap is rather impressive. It demonstrates some resiliency in a complex system in circumstances in which graceful, or survivable, failure modes are hard to achieve. Heck, if people had been on board they would have been fine.

        • rickflick
          Posted December 6, 2018 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

          Agreed. The fact that she righted herself at the last minute is a sign of a robust design. She might well have landed properly if there was a solid surface below.

  5. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted December 5, 2018 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t note the source (TechCrunch, or Gizmodo, or one of those sites), but I saw a report at lunchtime that the Dragon capsules have a problem with something – probably their paint – sweating enough unspecified gunk that it is detectably coating contamination sensors on some of the Earth Observing instruments on the ISS. Fortunately, at the moment the instruments are being “shuttered” before the Dragon enters ISS orbit, but that they don’t know (yet) what is doing the sweating … well that’s not good.

  6. Posted December 6, 2018 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    Ars Technica has two views of the “landing”, one from a camera on the booster and one from the ground.

    Unfortunately, in the ground view, the booster lands behind some trees.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 6, 2018 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      It’s got to be especially heartbreaking for the engineers who work hard on getting these landings right.

      • Posted December 7, 2018 at 4:16 am | Permalink

        I don’t think so in this case. There was damage to one of the vanes and yet the booster actually managed to land OK, it was just, unfortunately, on water. It was undamaged apparently and could still be reused. Furthermore, the payload was safely delivered into orbit.

        • Posted December 7, 2018 at 11:25 am | Permalink

          I think the engineers’ heartbreak will depend on finding the ultimate cause of the problem. If they left some bolts untightened, for example, hearts are gonna break.

  7. rickflick
    Posted December 8, 2018 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    New footage of the booster landing at sea:

    What Exactly Caused SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Landing Failure:

    • Posted December 8, 2018 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      They still didn’t say what exactly caused the hydraulics to “stall”. Even if adding redundancy to the hydraulic system is part of the solution, they would still want to address the ultimate cause of the failure. I’m no hydraulics engineer, but I doubt “stall” has any real meaning beyond “broken”.

      • rickflick
        Posted December 8, 2018 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

        Right. I think the ’cause’ is just based on whatever Musk tweets.

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