SpaceX targeting Friday relaunch of Dragon spacecraft; hard landing of booster

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SpaceX is targeting a Friday relaunch of its Dragon spacecraft, the previous launch of which was aborted yesterday with just 1 minute and 20 seconds to go owing to an issue with the craft’s actuator.

Yesterday’s launch was critical for two reasons – first, it was bringing supplies to the International Space Station; and second, SpaceX was to try a never-before-attempted hard landing of the booster rocket on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean.

Traditionally booster rockets are never re-used as they are lost during the missions in oceans – damaged badly or disintegrated when the splash down. SpaceX attempt at a hard landing was the first of its kind and if successful, it would have given SpaceX a huge boost as far as cost-savings and turn-around times are concerned.

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“It’s probably not more than a 50 percent chance or less of landing it on the platform for the first time”, Elon Musk company CEO, financier, and founder had said prior to launch. “There are at least a dozen launches that will occur over the next 12 months, and I think it’s quite likely — probably 80 to 90 percent likely — that one of those flights we’ll be able to land and refly.”

For the hard landing, SpaceX will be relighting the engines for a series of three burns. During the first burn called the boostback burn, the impact point of the booster is to be adjusted. The second burn dubbed supersonic retro propulsion burn slows down the booster from 1300 m/s to about 250 m/s. Final burn dubbed the landing burn will see the four legs of the booster deployed and its speed further reduced to around 2 m/s.

SpaceX Barge

The barge on which the hard landing will take place is a vessel called “the Marmac 300” specifically built for the purpose and is roughly the size of a football field at 100 feet wide and 300 feet long.