SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Will Fail Its Way to Being a Master Lander
Even with that success in its pocket, SpaceX is amped to fail again. Round seven1 of rocket versus barge will be the postscript to a launch aiming to inject a Japanese communications satellite 22,300 miles above the equator. Firing something that high requires a lot of oomph. And upward oomph becomes downward oooooooohhhhh sh*t! Which is why Musk is predicting this landing is going to blow. Up. Spectacularly.
Repeat failure is the only way SpaceX is going to make sticking a barge landing as mundane as this mission’s cargo. The JCSAT-14 is a commercial communications satellite weighing nearly four and a half tons. Orbiting in a fixed position relative to the Earth’s rotation, it will relay messages from one point of the planet to another. These types of satellites are essential for so many facets of modern life that they are impossible to list. OK, let’s try: your HBO, your podcasts, your phone calls to your cousin Pierre in Paris, your Tesla’s most recent upgrade, your sister in the Air Force’s secure link to the Predator drone in Yemen she’s controlling from a bunker in Virginia, your access to this web page. Amazing, essential technology that nobody ever thinks about. Such is SpaceX’s goal.2
Tonight’s launch is scheduled for 1:21am ET, lifting off from Cape Canaveral. To watch the action unfold, first plan on calling in sick tomorrow, then tune in to SpaceX’s livestream embedded at the top of this post. Feed and commentary kicks off about 20 minutes before launch. Super space geeks can check out the technical feed below. And remember, no matter if the rocket crashes or lands, cheer.
1 No, our math is not off. We know SpaceX only crashed into the floating barge four times before sticking the fifth. But there was one other launch that blew up shortly after leaving the pad that SpaceX had intended to land.
2 Success only comes through adversity, so WIRED has a few suggestions to “help” the Falcon 9 become a master lander:
- Swap out football field-sized barge Of Course I Still Love You with a floating log.
- Hire American Gladiators to chuck medicine balls at the rocket as it descends.
- Spike the rocket fuel with moonshine.
- Just before launch, whisper in the Falcon 9’s ear, “The whole world is watching you, no pressure.”
- Surround the barge with rafts full of kittens.