Elon Musk released several images of the Falcon 9 first stage as it attempted to land on the floating landing platform in the Atlantic Ocean. As was previously reported the attempt was close but ultimately failed, these images show just how close the vehicle was to landing on the Barge and according to Elon the Fins that helped control the decent ran out of fuel too early causing the rocket engines to attempt to compensate for the change.
The next test which could be as soon as 29th of Jan will carry additional fuel for the Fins.
Elon Musk has revealed via twitter a design change to the next Falcon 9 rocket launching a Dragon capsule towards the International Space Station on December 16th for the CRS-5 mission, this flight was delayed a week to allow NASA more time to re-evaluate the payload manifest following the Antares launch failure last month.
The upgrades will allow the rocket finer control during descent back to the second introduction this weekend, the landing barge. It became clear that SpaceX were looking into this option when they challenged the patent currently held by Blue Origin for the same technology.
Both of these changes should allow SpaceX for the first time to realize the goal of landing a first stage rocket. Once landed the stage would need to be secured for transport back to base, although the longer term plan is for SpaceX to refuel the stage and allow it to fly back to the launch pad. However at present that isn’t an option as return to pad has not been approved by the FAA.
At this point it is not know when or if the first stage will be re-flown as there would need to be a number of tests done to verify that everything is working for another flight, only time will tell.
We will be following the next launch with interest to see just what happens and hopefully usher in a new era were re-usable rockets come another step closer to reality.