SpaceX will try another landing attempt in June after a faulty valve issue is fixed, according to reports. The company will have another launch next week, but a landing at sea will not be attempted in that mission, officials said.
Meanwhile, a robotic arm operated by Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti successfully captured the cargo ship Dragon, used to transport essential supplies to the International Space Station. SpaceX Dragon was secured to the station early Monday morning. The SpaceX cargo ship brought two tons of items, including food, equipment, supplies, materials for experiments, and an expresso machine to the space station.
SpaceX, an aerospace company that has been working regularly with NASA for running supplies to the ISS, planned for the first-ever landing of a Falcon 9 first stage, on an ocean barge to occur after the launch on April 14 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The ocean barge was stationed in the Atlantic awaiting the arrival of the first stage booster. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk publicly released the video of the landing attempt over the weekend. The video shows the Falcon 9 approaching the barge, called an “autonomous spaceport drone ship” and slightly tilting in its final moments. It landed on the barge, but then tipped over and exploded in a fiery ball.
SpaceX engineers identified problems as excess lateral velocity, possibly not enough thrust, a damaged leg, or a problem with a biprop throttle valve that caused a control system phase lag. Engineers at SpaceX stated at a media conference, the problems were an easy fix and they do not expect them to occur again, although scientists also state more data is needed to complete their assessment. Space X engineers expect the corrections to be completed by June’s landing attempt.
The next SpaceX landing attempt will be approximately on June 19. It will be a part of the next resupply mission for the space station. However, SpaceX is planning another launch for a different mission on April 27. That launch will also be from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The SpaceX mission is to send a communications satellite to orbit at more than 22,000 miles above the equator. The satellite is the first communications device from Turkmenistan and built by Thales Alenia Space. SpaceX officials said a landing attempt of the first-phase Falcon 9 cannot be attempted in this mission because the launch is for extremely high orbit. That leaves a lacking in spare propellant to try another sea-bound booster landing, officials said. Officials also said, plans are to improve thrusts of the Falcon 9 later this year, that would allow for booster landings even when higher orbit missions are involved.
A deal over the shuttle runway at the Kennedy Space Center could mean commercial growth in the space industry. The runway is expected to be handed over to Space Florida when the deal closes in a month. Space Florida officials said they have made contacts with many companies seeking to use the runway for space craft or carrier aircraft landings and horizontal launches. Another possible use could be drone testing, officials said.
SpaceX also is planning a test in early May on its Dragon SuperDraco thrusters, on a new version of a Dragon spacecraft. The test is an abort test to allow astronauts to escape if something should fail in the rocket. The ultimate goal is for the Dragon to fly people. SpaceX officials said the Dragon testing and other missions are not directly affected by the faulty valve issue or the success of June’s landing attempt.
By Melody Dareing