Launch of SpaceX’s CRS-5 mission slips to Dec. 16, images of landing ‘barge’ emerge
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — The planned Dec.9, 2014 launch of a Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket and its Dragon spacecraft – has been delayed a week – to no-earlier-than Dec. 16, 2014. The cause for this delay appears to be related to the loss of an Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket and its Cygnus spacecraft. Also lost was about 5,000 lbs of cargo during the Oct. 28 accident. Meanwhile, images have appeared of the barge that SpaceX will deploy during the upcoming flight -which the company will use to land the rocket’s first stage on.
The flight will mark the sixth time that one of the Hawthorne, California-based company’s Dragon spacecraft has been sent to the space station. The mission is being carried out under the $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract. SpaceX has to deliver 20,000 kilograms of cargo to the outpost – by 2016.
The delay for this mission appears to have been precipitated by a requirement to reshuffle the cargo manifest after the Orb-3 failure.
At present, the company is well on its way to accomplishing this and has begun looking at developing new technologies to help lower the cost to orbit. One of these is the company’s efforts to have the Falcon 9’s first stage actually fly back to the launch site. SpaceX has taken a step-by-step approach.
The firm has already carried out two landing attempts out in the Atlantic Ocean and has now opted to move on to the next level – having the booster’s first stage land on a barge positioned out in the Atlantic. SpaceX CEO and Founder Elon Musk tweeted an image of this craft along with the following statement.
“Autonomous spaceport drone ship. Thrusters repurposed from deep sea oil rigs hold position within 3m even in a storm.”
It now appears that SpaceX will carry out this landing during the Dec. 16 launch attempt. The platform measures some 300 x 100 feet ( 90 x 35 meters) and is currently being built by the NewSpace firm in Louisiana.
If successful, this will be the first time that a rocket’s stage has conducted a solid-surface landing during an actual mission.
This article was edited at 1 a.m. EST on Nov. 23 to correct an error regarding the weight that SpaceX is required to deliver to the ISS
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.