Support leg breaks as SpaceX rocket lands on ocean barge

LOS ANGELES -- The first stage of a SpaceX rocket that delivered a U.S.-European ocean-monitoring satellite into orbit Sunday made a hard landing on a floating barge in the Pacific and broke a support leg.

See Full Article

SpaceX announcers said the Falcon 9 was not upright after reaching the 300-by-170 foot landing pad in choppy seas about 200 miles west of San Diego.

The rocket launched as planned at 10:42 a.m. from Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Los Angeles, sending its second stage and a Jason-3 satellite into orbit.

The failed landing is a setback for the California-based company's plan to reduce launch costs by reusing rockets rather than having them fall into the ocean. Two previous attempts to land a rocket on a barge in the Atlantic failed, but last month SpaceX succeeded in returning a rocket to a vertical landing at Cape Canaveral, Florida, after putting a cluster of satellites into orbit.

The mission of the satellite is to continue an unbroken record of more than two decades of sea level measurements from orbit. As the current El Nino in the eastern Pacific has strengthened, Jason-3 has been stuck on the ground.

Jason-3's launch was originally scheduled for August 2015 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. However, the launch was postponed after a different Falcon 9 rocket failed during a supply mission to the International Space Station in June. After correcting the problem, a successful launch last month restored Falcon 9s to flight status.

Like its predecessors, Jason-3 is equipped with radar altimeter to bounce microwave energy off the ocean and a GPS system to identify the satellite's precise location. Timing of how long it takes the signal to return indicates sea level height, which rises or falls depending on the temperature of the water.

The data collected can detect the weather-altering El Nino condition and its opposite, La Nina, and are most familiar to the public in images of the Pacific Ocean that use colours to illustrate variations in heat. Other pragmatic uses include measuring global sea level rise, and forecasting the strength of hurricanes, other severe weather and ocean conditions for the shipping industry and in response to oil spills.

"Jason allows us to get the big picture in terms of sea-level change in the years to come," said Laury Miller, Jason-3 program scientist.

Jason-3 is a project of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, the French space agency Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales, and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites. It was built by Thales Alenia of France.

Jason-3 will ultimately replace Jason-2, which has been in orbit since mid-2008 and has been tracking the current El Nino that experts say has tied the 1997-98 version as the strongest recorded and is expected to last through the winter before weakening in spring.

Despite being in its eighth year and only designed to last five, Jason-2 "is still in great shape," Jason-3 project scientist Josh Willis said. After being used to help calibrate the new satellite, Jason-2 will be moved to an orbit to study the shape of the sea floor.

The series of spacecraft began with Topex-Poseidon, which operated from 1992 to 2006. Topex, short for ocean surface topography experiment, revolutionized understanding of the role of ocean temperature on climate. Its successor, Jason-1, operated from 2001 until it was decommissioned in 2013.

Mission scientists emphasized at a prelaunch briefing that it is important to maintain a continuous record of global sea level variation.

Hans Koenigsmann, vice-president of mission assurance for SpaceX, said the current rocket would have been able to return to land, but the company does not have environmental approval at Vandenberg yet.

The cost of the mission, including five years of operation, was put at $180 million.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Autonomous ships on the horizon for Great Lakes

    Tech & Science CBC News
    One day the freighter you see coming up the Detroit River might not have a crew aboard. The day of autonomous ships is soon dawning. A Norwegian company will be launching a container vessel next year that it expects will not only navigate a river in Norway fully autonomously by 2020, but be battery powered as well. Source
  • Bali volcano spews ash and cloud, alert not raised

    Tech & Science CTV News
    JAKARTA, Indonesia -- The Mount Agung volcano on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali spewed ash and smoke Tuesday, but authorities said its alert level remained unchanged. National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the minor eruption began at about 5 p.m. Source
  • Fatbergs to fuel: London's blockage-busting battle in the sewers

    Tech & Science CBC News
    In London's 19th-century sewers, crews in coveralls are waging a 21st-century battle. They're blasting away a monster that feeds on grease and garbage, and its name reflects the beast's potency for revulsion: Fatberg. The monstrosity — a foul-smelling, congealed mass of grease, oil, fat and garbage — is born innocently enough. Source
  • Marine mammals fight for salmon in Pacific Northwest

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Harbour seals, sea lions and some fish-eating killer whales have been rebounding along the Northeast Pacific Ocean in recent decades. But that boom has come with a trade-off: they're devouring more of the salmon prized by a unique but fragile population of endangered orcas. Source
  • Mars theory gets dusted: Streaks may be sand, not water

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- A new study suggests that dark streaks on Mars represent flowing sand -- not water. Monday's news throws cold water on 2015 research that indicated that lines on some Martian slopes were signs of water currently on the planet. Source
  • Streaks on Mars likely flowing sand, not water, new research suggests

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A new study suggests that dark streaks on Mars are signs of flowing sand — not water. Monday's news throws cold water on 2015 research that indicated these recurring slope lines were signs of water currently on Mars. Source
  • Firestorm: Fort McMurray wildfire is a warning, book claims

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The wildfire that enveloped Fort McMurray in the spring of 2016 is a harbinger of things to come, Edmonton journalist Ed Struzik concludes in his new book, Firestorm: How Wildfire Will Shape our Future. Megafires like the one that burned out of control in the northern Alberta community for two months in Canada's costliest natural disaster, could soon become commonplace across North America, Struzik said. Source
  • Astronomers unveil secrets of interstellar visitor

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Astronomers say they've learned more about the first known object to enter our solar system from deep space, including its size and colour. New data from the European Southern Observatory's telescopes and others around the world have revealed that the asteroid — spotted last month, already speeding away from the sun — is rocky, cigar-shaped and about 400 metres long. Source
  • Ont. teacher leading effort to build roof over villa in ancient Pompeii

    Tech & Science CTV News
    An Ontario high school teacher is spearheading a campaign to build a roof over one of the ancient homes in Pompeii, in an effort to preserve the prized archeological site where a well-known figure in Latin education once lived. Source
  • Warming to make thunderstorms larger and more frequent

    Tech & Science CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Summer thunderstorms in North America will likely be larger, wetter and more frequent in a warmer world, dumping 80 per cent more rain in some areas and worsening flooding, a new study says. Source