"It actually targets a landing point in the water as it loses control", said Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of Build and Flight Reliability at SpaceX, as he narrated an onboard camera video of the rocket's descent in a post-launch press conference.
"Appears to be undamaged and is transmitting data".
Despite failing to land safely on its landing pad, the Falcon 9 rocket accomplished its mission of sending SpaceX's Dragon cargo capsule to the International Space Station to provide the crew with food and supplies. In the background, viewers could still hear the team on-console making callouts as the rocket's landing burn started, culminating in a call for the landing team to "move to contingency procedure [s]", the only SpaceX affirmation that something went wrong.
But one of the booster's grid fins malfunctioned, SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted Wednesday, causing the booster to spin erratically.
"Pump is single string".
As Monday's launch of the CRS-16 mission showed, not deploying a grid fin in time can put the rocket into a tailspin, preventing it from steering toward a landing site.
The billionaire entrepreneur soon made good on that promise, posting the booster's first-person splashdown video on Twitter. It pops out its four landing legs, rockets toward the ocean's surface, plunges in, then tips over like a felled tree. Falcon 9 first stages are outfitted with targeting algorithms that keep them offshore until the very end of their touchdown sequences, when it's clear that everything is working well, he said. And if it is on land it avoids buildings. The second stage of the Falcon 9 is still on its way to the ISS and is expected to reach its destination on December 8. "So it stays away from populations and property, and ensures public safety". "It knows where buildings are, so it's pretty smart in that aspect", he said of the landing system on the booster.
NASA requires SpaceX to perform at least seven launches with the redesigned COPVs before the agency will allow its astronauts to fly on the vehicle.
As Musk noted, SpaceX plans to recover the booster.
In a response to someone else's tweet, Musk clarified that SpaceX may use this Falcon 9 "for an internal SpaceX mission", but no further information on that was provided. Until today, the company's most recent landing failure happened in summer 2016.