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Elon Musk released these explosive photos of a SpaceX rocket crash-landing on a floating platform

The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket launched by SpaceX on a cargo resupply service mission to the International Space Station (ISS), lifts off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida January 10, 2015. An unmanned Space Exploration Technologies mission blasted off on Saturday carrying cargo for the ISS, but efforts to reland the rocket on a sea platform failed, the firm said. The Dragon cargo capsule itself was successfully launched into space and is expected to dock with the space station on Monday.
Reuters/Mike Brown
A good view of the landing legs on the SpaceX rocket as it launched on Jan. 10.
  • Tim Fernholz
By Tim Fernholz

Senior reporter

This article is more than 2 years old.

In an early morning tweet session with John Carmack, the Oculus VR CTO and video game pioneer behind DOOM, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk showed off some graphic violence from his own industry: The explosive crash-landing of a rocket stage on a floating platform.

SpaceX
“Before impact, fins lose power and go hardover. Engines fights to restore, but…”

 

To further cut the cost of space access, Musk’s firm has been developing technology to safely land the largest stage of its Falcon 9 rocket back on earth after it takes its cargo into space, instead of casting it away to burn up and sink in the ocean.

The Jan. 10 mission to the International Space Station saw the company’s first attempt to put the stage on an autonomous landing platform at sea, which uses technology developed for deep-sea oil rigs to hold its position. In two previous tests without the platform the rocket slowed itself to briefly hover above the ocean.

SpaceX
“Rocket hits hard at ~45 deg angle, smashing legs and engine section”

While the launch went well, the landing was not a complete success: Although the company did prove it could bring the rocket down at the right spot, a failure in its hydraulic control fins brought it down at a bad angle.

SpaceX
“Residual fuel and oxygen combine.”

And when things go wrong in rocketry, there’s usually one result: “Full RUD (rapid unscheduled disassembly),” as Musk put it.

SpaceX
“Full RUD (rapid unscheduled disassembly) event. Ship is fine minor repairs. Exciting day!”

Here is the whole sequence in a time-lapse animation:

SpaceX

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