A Perfect Landing


"A few minutes after launch, the Falcon 9's first stage separated from the upper stage, then headed back down to Earth to attempt a touchdown on "Just Read the Instructions," one of SpaceX's two robotic "drone ships," which was stationed in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast.

The rocket stuck the landing eight minutes after lifting off. SpaceX has now pulled off seven such touchdowns during orbital launches, with five coming on drone ships and two rockets flying back to their launch sites on terra firma. (The previous six landings all occurred after launches from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, between December 2015 and August 2016.)

These rocket touchdowns are part of SpaceX's effort to develop fully and rapidly reusable launch vehicles, a key priority for SpaceX's billionaire founder and CEO, Elon Musk. Such technology could cut the cost of launches dramatically, potentially enabling much greater access to space, Musk has said."  Space.com


Musk is just amazing.  He must have nerves of steel.  The landing of the first stage booster was only a few feet from the bull's eye on the barge.  pl 


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36 Responses to A Perfect Landing

  1. Not only did he nail the landing of the booster, he began deploying Iridium satellites into low earth orbit 59 minutes after launch and finished 15 minutes later. With so much riding on this for SpaceX, this was a drop the mic performance if there ever was one. Just think what he will do for electric power technology.

  2. doug says:

    Absolutely amazing tech. I also love the whimsical names they give their drone landing ships. The Atlantic landing, where the first touchdown occurred, was “Of Course I Still Love You.” It says something about the people and a great work environment.

  3. mike says:

    Musk also has 15,000 employees working on solar projects. Lots of potential there. But he is facing strong opposition from the electric utilities.

  4. George says:

    Solar will never replace central power plants.
    Not concentrated enough.
    Nuclear is the future.
    But that will also mean the end of the petro-dollar.
    London/Wall Street can’t have that!
    So, let’s start a war.

  5. Thomas101st says:

    All of you fanboys do realize Elon Musk is a corporate welfare queen whose primary endeavors (Tesla, Space-X, solar, etc.) are subsidized by the tax dollars of Americans, don’t you ? Without the subsidies none of these enterprises would be viable. Of course, if they ever do become viable he will surely share the profits with those who financed them….

  6. Grimgrin says:

    They’re taken from the names of two of the sentient AI-controlled ships from the late, great, Iain M. Banks’ Culture series of novels.

  7. Keith Harbaugh says:

    Totally off topic, but in today’s news is
    Here are parts of the article:

    Aides escorted Vo Ban Tam to greet Kerry …
    Tam at 70 is three years younger than Kerry.
    He was Viet Cong in the communist stronghold of Ca Mau,
    one of the enemy lying in the tall grasses waiting to entrap unprotected, thin-skinned river patrol boats like Kerry’s.

    Tam told Kerry the Viet Cong could hear the Swift boats coming from 3,000 feet away,
    and he gently suggested the lumbering Americans never stood a chance.
    “We were guerrillas,” he said.
    “We were never where you were shooting.”

    Kerry says he will return to Vietnam,
    a country where he is treated as a returning prodigal son.
    Many here know Kerry and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.),
    who spent six years as a POW in Vietnam,
    for their work normalizing relations and helping transform enmity into friendship.
    Vietnamese officials regularly bestow big hugs on Kerry at the end of meetings,
    and civilians wait in the rain to watch him leave a restaurant.
    A local delegation that greeted him Saturday at the [something must be missing here] “delighted” that he has returned.

    This is an aspect of human psychology I have no feeling for whatsoever.
    After all the terrifying moments of men trying to kill each other,
    how would they react upon returning to the scene of the conflict years later,
    and meeting their one-time adversaries?
    Understanding the combatants were just pawns in a conflict between their superiors?
    Or would they have an ongoing identification with the conflict?
    (I.e., how personally involved were they in the conflict?)
    How much of this is the need for the Vietnamese to be part of the global economy,
    selling goods they produce to the U.S.?
    Many contributors to this blog (notably Colonel Lang) did serve in VN.
    Perhaps some would enjoy discussing this issue.
    In any case, my regards to all of you.

  8. turcopolier says:

    The only ones I have an abiding grudge against are the VC agitprop cadres who murdered so many out in the countryside in their effort to control the people. I would kill them now, here, today. The soldiers I have no interest in and did not then. I merely fought them as they fought us and the RVN. pl

  9. Richard says:

    the names were inspired by Iain Banks’ great series of SF novels about what he called “The Culture”. the best kind of space opera, the spaceships of the culture were operated by brilliant AIs Banks called minds, and minds picked their own names.

  10. Jack says:

    I agree that nuclear is an excellent technology for base load plants especially molten salt reactors using thorium fuel. Unfortunately the US due to its nuclear hysteria stopped developing the technology although Oakridge had developed concept plant in the 60s.
    On the matter of “petro-dollar” it is pure hogwash. Folks want dollar instruments because they provide unmatched depth and liquidity. The Chinese government has sold hundreds of billions of treasury securities in recent months yet it has had no impact on the treasury market. Chinese businesses and citizens have been taking their money out as fast as they can. This capital flight is not because they have confidence in yuan. And you think people want euros when there is so much political instability with the EU?

  11. Jack says:

    Exactly. Musk like the big agri-business guys with their ethanol subsidies are good examples of corporate welfare queens. Although what SpaceX and others are doing in terms of technology development is definitely worthwhile. The US taxpayers are being screwed because their government does not demand either equity or senior debt securities in return for funding.

  12. Thomas101st,
    Yes, Musk gets tons of subsidies. Most are from states who enticed him to bring his businesses to those states. The states are betting on jobs for their citizens, much like Trump and Pence did for Carrier in Indiana to save hundreds of jobs. Musk also profits from 5.5 billion in government contracts.

  13. doug says:

    Richard, Grimgrin,
    Very cool. I appreciate the origin info.

  14. zak says:

    If all projects that are subsidized with tax dollars had comparable results to Musk’s endeavors, we would be traveling between the stars already.

  15. mike says:

    KH –
    I too never had a beef with the NVA or even with the VC military.
    My dislike was like Colonel Lang’s for the VC can-bo that Colonel Lang is talking about. The party line was that they were only land reformers throwing out the landlords. But in fact they were out and out terrorists. They assassinated schoolteachers, village chiefs, district agricultural experts and any other government workers. They kidnapped the hamlet youth and press-ganged them into the VC. They should rot in hell.

  16. Randy says:

    Most corporations are welfare queens, especially the ones peddling antiquated technologies/business models. New tech deserves subsidies more than old tech. Wake up and die right.

  17. Randy says:

    Elon Musk might have a different opinion than yours. If I had to make a bet I’d put my money on Musk.

  18. Gordon Wilson says:

    Have to admit Colonel the only thing I regret about my aging is I won’t live to see the future of human space exploration. As you know I suppose, whatever we see being deployed is obsolete to what is on the drawing boards.
    I’m sure you’ve heard of the space sails, small craft that can be pushed by the pressure of the sun’s photons, and with continued miniaturization of of circuits and components, coupled with the recent successful testing of drone swarms, it isn’t hard to imagine low space orbital deployment of nano technology injected into lasers that could feasibly propel them at nearly the speed of light and then they could assemble themselves into functioning satellites around distant star systems. Alpha Centauri is only 4.22 light years away. It isn’t too surprising that some of the best science fiction is written by moral philosophers. We come to love the Borg.
    I shall have to content myself with a dotage of touring American Revolutionary sites and traveling the scenic highways of America I suppose. Perhaps I should take up philosophizing too. Seems to me to be easier than learning how to play the guitar.

  19. MRW says:

    facing strong opposition from the electric utilities.
    I live in one of the states covered by SolarCity, Elon Musk’s solar co. My best friend is a senior manager there. He’s a real solar/environmental supporter. I mean, he was one of the true believers. He is now disgusted by SolarCity’s tactics, says they are cheating their customers by not telling them the truth, and calls it “a scam.” He has been having ‘heavy-heart’ talks with me at the bar because he needs the job; he can’t afford to quit.
    He says our electric utility has every right it make the complaints it’s making. He says Musk is trying to piggy-back on their infrastructure, and is telling solar customers knowingly that it can get retail rates by selling excess capacity back to the grid. [I could write reams about the issue, but won’t.] Whereas the contract a solar customer must sign do get bilateral transmission says no such thing, AND specifies in black and white that the electric utility has every right to raise fees if necessary. Solar City refuses to disclose this double-whammy from prospective customers, some of who now facing massive month;y bills. The utility company has back-end charges that it can do nothing about; they are wholesale costs imposed at the source.
    As for his satellite company, Musk has a guaranteed $500 billion in US federal government grants and loans–this same SolarCity manager worked at SpaceX in NM, and moved within the subsidiaries to take his current job–and his tech comes from the military (DARPA?). Was given to him.
    My question is why was critical search algorithm research given to a young Russian emigre (Google), and rocket research given to a South African émigré?
    What the hell is wrong with giving it to American kids?

  20. charly says:

    Solar has the advantage that it is produced when it is needed (lighting is only a few percent of electricity demand)
    Nuclear can’t produce peak demand for an affordable price

  21. YT says:

    This oughta’ve been posted in Open Thread.
    Anyways, hope it’s of interest.

  22. Pat,
    I really enjoyed watching the SpaceX return to flight video on Saturday. We took a break from our normal Saturday management meeting to watch through the end of first stage recovery. Elon has a great team there at SpaceX. It’s impressive to see what they’ve been able to pull off. My last startup was also doing (much smaller and less impressive) VTVL rockets, so I can definitely appreciate what goes into making something like this work on any scale, but I still get blown away by the fact that that is a 10 story tall rocket landing on the barge. I had always been skeptical that he’d get barge landing reliable, but he’s proven me wrong.
    I just hope their competitor ULA eventually comes around to powered-landing reuse. ULA is looking at reuse already, but a much less ambitious form. ULA is one of our bigger customers at my current startup, so I’d like to see them keep evolving to stay competitive with SpaceX. Plus, for all the awesomeness of what SpaceX has pulled off technically, I like how ULA treats its vendors and partners a lot better–SpaceX has a bit of a reputation for stealing others IP and pulling everything in-house, and never sharing the limelight, while ULA actively cultivates and publicly praises collaborations with small businesses and startups like mine.
    But yeah, it’s been cool to see powered landing reusable rockets go from sci-fi as a young teen to reality with multiple companies (SpaceX, Blue Origin, Masten, and several other groups) during the first third of my career. It’ll be neat to see where things go from here. I still have a promise to keep with my oldest that we’d go to the moon together some day.

  23. Old Microbiologist says:

    Very true. But, in his defense Musk is doing it better and cheaper than NASA. All of these projects ultimately are going to be paid for by the tax payer. I don’t mind printing money to help Americans at home but I mind it terribly to go deep into debt to fight meaningless wars.
    However, Musk is taking the easy way out using rocket technology when we should be working diligently on developing orbital capability using runways and normal take-offs and landings. Of course, this means developing ram jet technology which so far hasn’t panned out, mostly for lack of funding. We can spend $1.2 trillion on unnecessary fighter technology but not on space development? What really sucks is we have zero capability to launch men into space and are completely reliant on Russia for this. We really dropped the ball not replacing the shuttles when it was possible (meaning before they ran out their service life). Now we are playing catch-up and sadly look like a wanna be nation in regards to space which is something we used to be the leader in.

  24. salamander says:

    I read this criticism so many places… I really don’t get it.
    1) Musk’s endeavors are indeed subsidized by tax incentives designed to encourage and nurture the kind of technology he is developing. If this is a bad thing, I guess you have a gripe with our legislators.
    2) Yes… subsidies can indeed lead to commercially viable enterprises. That’s why they are such a powerful instrument of public policy. No “profit sharing” is required or expected. The public gets a great product, and – bonus – the nation that successfully nurtures it’s development has a natural advantage in that technology, creating an export market which is a net boon to the economy. Jobs. Spin off products. More jobs.
    Or would you prefer that Americans buy electric BMWs? They are quite impressive.
    3) Have you ridden in a Tesla? Are you really so contemptuous of inventors who aggressively avail themselves of every legal and ethical resource in pursuing success… and win? Fabulously?
    Seriously… a recoverable rocket?
    I admire and respect Mr. Musk’s achievements greatly.

  25. ISL says:

    Thomas 101st
    The iPhone would not exist without the federal subsidized research – and in thanks Apple doesnt pay its taxes.
    I admire Musk for managing to get Tax Dollars to do something useful (except Tesla) as opposed to giving trillions to the poor folk at Goldman banks. Ooops the feds did that. Its how economics always work in a mature empire.
    Though some might argue mature = decline.

  26. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I agree; Tesla in a Financial Smokes & Mirrors for the sorry people called investors.

  27. Babak Makkinejad says:

    In case of Brin, I think you need to look at the pay structure; Americans do not attend graduate schools in significant numbers since they estimate, correctly, that the opportunity cost trumps any future gains.
    Musk is one of those special people who can charm a snake out of its hole.

  28. Joe100 says:

    Off topic, but FYI big problems over the past couple of days at Deir El-Zor where ISIS has cut through the enclave, causing significant internal supply and defense challenges…

  29. LeaNder says:

    3) Have you ridden in a Tesla?
    I have, not too long ago. Pretty amazing acceleration.Pretty impressive experience overall.

  30. MRW says:

    You’ve got it backwards, charly.
    Solar cannot run your refrigerator and TV without help from the grid. You need batteries to collect the created energy if you are completely off the grid. Those batteries today cost $5,000/piece.
    Each battery allows a solar customer to run their AC for only 1.5 hours. You need at least six of those batteries if you want to cover the hottest period of the day. You need constant sun during the day and 16 batteries if you want to cover your modern electrical needs for 24 hours.
    Source? My SolarCity manager best friend.
    Nuclear absolutely can “produce peak demand for an affordable price.”
    But even better are Ultra Supercritical Coal-Powered Plants that the Chinese and now Germans are building. In 2012, the emissions from these plants was 15% below the 2020 Kyoto Protocol emissions levels. These produce more energy than a nuclear plant.
    Here are two articles germane to the discussion, written by someone [Anton Lang aka TonyFromOz] who is an industry insider in Australia. I think (but don’t hold me to it) that he might also be, or has been, some sort of Australian government official working in the field.
    “Ultra Super Critical Coal Fired Power gives a 15% CO2 Emissions Reduction” This article is significant for explaining the processes to you. Don’t miss it. it’s clear, concise, and relevant. Fabulous explanation.
    “Wait ’til you see these numbers on Carbon Capture and Storage”
    charly, we get nothing but bullshit from our non-scientific journalist/activists.

  31. LeeG says:

    Another amazing thing about the landing is the sea state, white caps everywhere but the barge isn’t rocking and rolling at all. The barge doesn’t look big enough to provide that kind of stability. Anyone know about its positioning technology?

  32. charly says:

    Nuclear can’t run your fridge alone either. It simply is (obvious) to expensive to deliver the ones a month peak demand. So for electricity you need a mix and in that mix solar & wind is cheaper, easier, easier to scale and much faster to build out than nukes.
    ps. The big unstated issue in Europe with coal & gas is that it is imported (at least on the scale of a new coal/gas plant with a life of 50 years)
    Even a reduction of 15% (gas has likely the same reduction) on something that produces so much more CO2 doesn’t really change anything for coal.

  33. SAC Brat says:

    Which programs are descended from the McDonnell Douglas DC-X project?

  34. Tunde says:

    I am also amazed by the technology that Musk (who’s media personality portrays him Asa mixture of Tesla, Faraday, Buffet and Gates) seems to be pioneering, but wonder at th long term commercial prospects of his reusable rocket. It all seems prohibitively expensive when JAXA and the Indians seem to be going the cheaper, smaller, quickly configurable route. As I understand, space capable rockets are expensive things, which if not heavily resourced, go bang. Surely making them (rockets) dirt cheap and easily configured to various payloads would be the way to go.
    Why would Musk’s plans be a better economic solution for, say developing world clients or businesses, than this :
    Yes, it ended in failure, but you can bet they will eventually get it right……..Will Musk’s potential clients not be govt entities and ISS type projects as opposed the smaller businesses trying to get into space ?

  35. HawkOfMay says:

    A photo that gives some scale to the reusable rocket.

  36. Stonevendor says:

    I saw the movie “Hidden Figures” on Monday. I realize they took some creative liberties, but I thought they caught the very real sense of urgency surrounding the initial manned space missions. It also sent me going back to read up on Euler equations for the first time in over 40 years. That doesn’t happen every day. I thought the video of the launch was pretty amazing. The navy insisted that John Glenn’s capsule land within a 20 sq. mile area. And today… Wow! We have come a long way.

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