VIDEO: Chase Plane Captures SpaceX Rocket Landing Attempt After Successful CRS-6 Dragon Launch

The Falcon-9 CRS-6 first stage booster just before touching down on the company's offshore "Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship". According to SpaceX leader Elon Musk, the rocket came down with excess lateral velocity, causing it to tip over post landing. Photo Credit: SpaceX via Twitter @ElonMusk
The Falcon-9 CRS-6 first stage booster just before touching down on the company’s offshore “Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship.” According to SpaceX leader Elon Musk, the rocket came down with excess lateral velocity, causing it to tip over post landing. Photo Credit: SpaceX via Twitter @ElonMusk

Right now SpaceX’s CRS-6 Dragon cargo ship is en route to the International Space Station (ISS), aiming to deliver tons of fresh supplies, cargo, science experiments, and technology demonstrations to the Expedition 43 crew for NASA. The launch itself, although scrubbed on April 13 for unfavorable weather, took off beautifully this afternoon into mostly clear blue skies over Cape Canaveral, Fla., and although delivering Dragon and its payloads to the $100 billion orbiting science research outpost is the primary mission, SpaceX had another mission in mind as well: landing their rocket on an autonomous barge located a couple hundred miles offshore.

Read our in-depth CRS-6 launch story HERE.

The Falcon-9 CRS-6 first stage booster just before touching down on the "ASDS. Photo Credit: SpaceX via Twitter @ElonMusk
The Falcon-9 CRS-6 first stage booster just before touching down on the “ASDS. Photo Credit: SpaceX via Twitter @ElonMusk

The barge, known as the “Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship” (ASDS) and named “Just Read The Instructions,” was positioned around 250 miles offshore of the Florida/Georgia border. The attempt alone was only the second time SpaceX has tried landing their rocket on the ASDS (first try was on the CRS-5 mission), and although the rocket did not remain stable upon landing on the ASDS it did hit the ASDS. That feat in and of itself is worthy of respect, especially considering that stabilizing the 150-foot-tall rocket stage in flight—traveling at a velocity of 2,900 mph at separation—has been likened to someone balancing a rubber broomstick on their hand in the middle of a fierce wind storm.

“Looks like Falcon landed fine, but excess lateral velocity caused it to tip over post landing,” said Elon Musk via his Twitter account (@ElonMusk) after launch. “Either not enough thrust to stabilize or a leg was damaged. Data review needed.”

“Looks like the issue was stiction in the biprop throttle valve, resulting in control system phase lag,” added Musk this evening. “Should be easy to fix.”

A couple images from the ASDS released today, courtesy of Musk, also show the booster just prior to impact on the barge.

The company is making strides with developing the technology to land their boosters and re-use them. When they do finally land a rocket successfully, it will be a history-making feat, a game-changer that many expect the company to accomplish this year. As is expected during any testing and development, the odds of success are only 50/50 currently, but the odds of success will dramatically increase as the vehicle matures through the next few landing attempts.

Never has a rocket made a controlled landing after a launch, and the expectation is that once the SpaceX Falcon-9 is truly reusable it will drive down dramatically both the costs of access to space and turnaround time between launches.


In the meantime, SpaceX is already beginning to build the actual landing site for their rockets, at the old Launch Complex-13 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, under a recently signed five-year lease agreement with the U.S. Air Force. Although instead of being called “Launch Complex-13,” it is now designated as “Landing Complex-1.” A primary concrete landing pad will be developed, surrounded by four smaller contingency landing pads for use in case a landing rocket is not quite on the bull’s eye.

The company is also planning similar operations at their west coast launch site at Vandenberg AFB, Calif. Another ASDS named “Of Course I Still Love You” will serve as the company’s Vandenberg barge while SpaceX continues on the reusability development path to landing their rockets back on solid ground.

Bookmark our “CRS-6 Mission Tracker” for regular updates and live coverage of Dragon’s arrival at the ISS April 17.


Want to keep up-to-date with all things space? Be sure to “Like” AmericaSpace on Facebook and follow us on Twitter: @AmericaSpace


Missions » ISS » COTS » CRS-6 »


  1. Wow…This is amazing watching this thing come in attempt to land…I wish Musk would show the crash…That would help people understand just how difficult this is…

  2. Looks like SpaceX “forgot” to include the rest of the footage when it came to a crash 😉

      • Thanks for the link.

        There looks to be a pendulum like swing to the vehicle as it approached the barge. That angle was less than the most extreme when it actually “touched down”, but that seems more random than planned.

        Resembles (at least superficially)the same problem as the previous attempt.

        • Having landed on ships a couple times riding in the back of a helicopter- this has always looked like a bad idea to me. I am just as much prey to the cult of personality as anyone else though and was not going to predict Musk would not be able to pull it off.

          Now it is becoming apparent because this monstrosity cannot hover it may mean this is not going to work. An airplane has to make an approach, a helicopter has to hover, and a top heavy rocket plunking down perfectly may not be practical. Like many of the ideas the billionaire hobbyists are peddling. From suborbital tourist planes, to 4000 cheap and nasty little satellites, to hyperloopy vacuum tubes carrying people, it is all just good fun to them. Unfortunately, in most cases, taxpayers are subsidizing their toys.

          • You may be correct.

            SpaceX seems to be having trouble getting it’s story straight as to the cause of the problem.

            Is it a “simple fix” to the Stage:


            Or is it a problem to be solved by abandoning the barge and “simply” landing on land:


            The problem, if it is the latter, is they will be sacrificing at least 30% of the Falcon 9 gross payload (SpaceX estimate, more likely 35% to 40%)to perform the retrograde maneuver to get the Stage back to the launch site.

            For a CRS mission that 30% gross payload would be at least 65% of the Dragon vehicles up-mass.

            • The Shuttle wasted about half the lift of a Saturn V class vehicle on lifting wings, landing gear, airframe, cargo bay, etc. and SpaceX is just repeating the same fundamental mistake on a cheaper, smaller, more “flexible” scale. Except while the Shuttle did some amazing things, the hobby rocket is proving mediocre despite the hype to the contrary.

              • So for seriously heavy lift available years ago, what would you have thought of standard Shuttle SRBs mated to a stretched DeltIV Heavy. BOTE would have the 2 SRB and 4 SRB configurations matching the block 1 and block 2 SLS payloads respectively.

                To me, known booster with known engines and stretched tanks would seem lower risk, cost, and time than an all new design.

                • 4 five segment SRB’s and RS-68A’s on the core should be what NASA should have considered for a new launch vehicle. SLS is actually pretty small.

                  As for “years ago”, the great missed opportunity was Sidemount. It would have made it all good and started the U.S. back on the road to the Moon and a second space age. I still get sad and depressed when I think about it.

            • “For a CRS mission that 30% gross payload would be at least 65% of the Dragon vehicles up-mass.”

              I am pretty convinced the NewSpace endgame is playboy clubs in space. The “vision” is the billionaire bus takes off from Texas and the lower stage lands “at the cape.” The Falcon heavy takes the Bigelow inflatables up into orbit and supplies when necessary.

              • Gary,
                In this plan is that completely private when the Billionaires Boys Bus operates or is that version government subsidized as well?

                • SpaceX is the poster child for corporate welfare. It is Orwellian that NewSpace fans are scream it is the free market miracle. SpaceX will have to stay involved with NASA to take advantage of tax dollars and free support to make any money on space tourism, so I would say the company will become involved in defense if they can, continue to launch NASA satellites, and milk the space station to nowhere for all it’s worth. In the end it will pass into history for the same reason the Concorde did. And everyone will wonder how anybody believed it could ever work- just like the shuttle.

  3. I think it is funny how the NewSpace mob used to bad mouth the stick for being “top heavy.” This thing is an abomination. A hobby rocket for a bored billionaire. It is criminal the taxpayers are subsidizing these toys.

    • LOL, you are funny. Still waiting for the apology letter from Musk after he ran over your dog?

      • A very pertinent comment Lars.

        Glad to see you are continuing your policy a making polite, factual and on topic comments.

        • That’s O.K.Joe
          Doug Messier just banned me from his blog. The most recent in a long line- the NewSpace mob dogpiles me with insults and the moderators wait until I cross some imaginary line they have made up and then make their “problem” disappear. It is not enough that the half a dozen or so quality space forums are now basically SpaceX infomercials- after all the people with criticism of NewSpace have left in disgust, the few who reappear are now to be eliminated from any discussion. Criticizing Musk, SpaceX, or NewSpace is NOT tolerated. I am just waiting to see what America Space does.

      • Lars,
        You often get more info from people that disagree than from those that agree. There are those here that despise SpaceX. That can be useful as they have incentive to spot flaws that us fans may have missed. While it may be just sniping, they will be right on occasion. Those occasions can be golden.

        If there were no taxpayer money involved, it would be a bit different. Since there is, on topic and polite is a useful policy, whether the opposition adheres to that or not.

          • Hi Gary,

            Defended you once, so I hope you will allow me to criticize you once.

            John Hare has a good point, it would be to everyone’s benefit if we all stuck to the point and were more “On topic and polite”.

            Who knows, that kind of discussion might even produce knowledge.

            • I will always allow you to criticize me- it is the NewSpace mob that has worn me out after years of abuse and I refuse to give any respect to. I thoroughly despise them. The games they play have completely burned me out; their endless propaganda misinformation, obfuscation, and lies. Try and expose them as such and it ALWAYS devolves from the standard veiled disparaging remarks into outright disgusting insults. You know this to be true.

              Consider someone like Coastal Ron who has posted the equivalent of several thick books of comments shilling for SpaceX over the years. He is not really having a conversation- he just goes on and on like a robot endlessly disputing the tiniest detail with half-truths and distractions while constantly exercising borderline troll behavior. His game is to fill up the page and exhaust anyone he is tormenting into just going away. Intolerable. So why tolerate it?

              There is no point in being civil or patient with them- it matters not one bit. I just give it right back to them. If moderators want to ban me for doing exactly what they are doing then that is what is going to happen over and over again.

  4. With this vast engineering brain trust …Is there anyway that SpaceX overcomes the retrograde launch issue from launching at the Cape and then Landing at the Cape with its current configuration?

    • Tracy,

      The launch from Texas and land in Florida scenario Gary mentioned above would be one way to try and get around the fly-back payload penalty, but it would complicate ground handling considerably.

      Probably involving both land and sea transport of the Stage to get it back to the launch site.

      That and the extra inspections (etc.)that would require to recertify the stage for flight would run up the cost per flight considerably. Remember reusability is only desirable (no matter how cool it may look) if it saves money.

      • “Remember reusability is only desirable (no matter how cool it may look) if it saves money.”

        And according to the NewSpace mob space is only desirable if it makes money.

        The first feature one notices looking at web discussions are long infomercials filled with zeros showing how cheap SpaceX is compared to “evil old space companies.” Like litanies damning the devil and praising the archangel they have been posted for years in the thousands. I don’t even read them anymore.

        Of course that does not stop the sycophants from claiming SpaceX is not about making money. An integral part of the Musk cult is the often stated belief he is trying to make the human race a multi-planet species. The mob thus believes their savior grants them ownership of this ultimate moral high ground and entitle themselves to talk down to everyone else like ignorant children. The Ayn-Rand-in-Space mixing of dollar sign worship and faux altruism is…..completely bizarre. After enough exchanges with these arrogant idiots it quickly becomes apparent there is no talking sense to them.

        Inspecting nine coked up gas generators and their turbopump assemblies, the feed lines exposed to cryogenic temperatures and explosive vibration, the egg-shell stage structure that has undergone the stresses of max-Q and landing; nothing cheap about this and the inspections become progressively more time-consuming with repeated flights. In my view it is more a scam to keep the public interested and those tax dollars flowing into “innovation.” It will of course take several years to “prove” what everyone already knows- reusability is a myth.

  5. Gary,
    You sound very knowledgeable and experienced…Does the technology now exist for the VentureStar (X-33) to operate on a SSTO concept?

    • Tracy,
      I have read a few books- I am no rocket scientist. My views are my own and I do not see SSTO working unless some kind of beam propulsion is involved. Sorry.

  6. I would have liked to have seen an Americanized Energiya. Keep a big orbiter–only simpler–like Buran–but with self ferry jets. keep the main engines on the ET for it to be an HLLV on its own

    • The winged orbit concept really only has some specialized military applications. There is nothing to bring back down- the whole point is putting stuff up there to stay. The shuttle taught us that and if we learn that lesson once and for all it will have been worth the money. For returning human beings a capsule with a couple hundred pounds of parachute and floats is unbeatable.

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