Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) celebrated the anniversary of Falcon 9's successful launch and upright landing in Cape Canaveral on Dec. 21but, just as the history-making machine seemed ready to make more history, 2016 reminded it that success comes from learning from failures all throughout the year.
Take a look back at SpaceX's rocky 2016 after its historical upright landing of Falcon 9.
Elon Musk announced on his Twitter account that the Falcon 9 has been inspected is ready for another launch merely 11 days after its historical feat. Of course, Musk meant every word because the rocket was prepared for another launch on January 17. This time, it was to test for landing on an autonomous spaceport drone ships (ASDS) after launching the JASON-3 satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The satellite launch was successful but the landing, not so.
Falcon 9 back in the hangar at Cape Canaveral. No damage found, ready to fire again. https://t.co/7w6IfJGtXM
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 1, 2016
Falcon 9 landed about 1.3 meters from the center of the target and this could have been temporarily acceptable and could be fixed with a few tweaks but stage one tipped over in shame and was destroyed. According to reports, the landing leg collet failed to lock despite its smooth landing and the failure was attributed to Vandenberg's foggy atmosphere which caused frozen condensation. Despite the early failure, Musk and SpaceX decided to let it go and move on to the next mission.
Well, at least the pieces were bigger this time! Won't be last RUD, but am optimistic about upcoming ship landing. pic.twitter.com/w007TccANJ — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 17, 2016
On April 8, SpaceX launched the Falcon 9 for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as part of a series of Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-8). This time, its mission is to send supplies loaded in the Dragon to the International Space Station (ISS). After releasing stage 2 to deliver the payload, stage 1 descended and successfully landed on ASDS Of Course I Still Love You which was floating in the Atlantic.
SpaceX was back in business with Falcon 9 and on May 6 and 27, the company launched satellites for SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation (Japan) and THAICOM 8 and, in both instances, landed perfectly on ASDS Of Course I Still Love You.
On June 15, however, after launching Falcon 9 to send the EUTELSAT and ABS satellite into orbit and successfully detaching stage 2, stage 1 experienced some issues and ended up getting destroyed again.
As always, Musk and SpaceX were not deterred and, on July 18, Falcon 9 and Dragon were launched once again for another resupply mission to the ISS and, luckily, stage 1 was unharmed during landing this time.
On August 14, SpaceX sent another communications satellite into orbit for SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation and all was well.
Just when things seemed to be on the upswing, SpaceX was hit with an anomaly that many considered to be an epic failure. On September 1, during Falcon 9's static fire test for the Amos-6 communications satellite launch mission, an "anomaly" occurred on the launch pad and resulted in the loss of both the vehicle and its payload. It was not only an epic failure but an expensive one at that; however, no one was injured so that should probably count for something.
Due to the September 1 AMOS-6 mission failure, SpaceX has been delaying its next launch until the investigation is complete and a full report could be made. The company, however, considered the possibility of a mid-December launch but it was, again, delayed to January 2017.
We will just have to wait and see what is next for SpaceX as the curse of 2016 comes to an end.
We'll start a cadence of sending Dragons to Mars in two years. Will be like a train leaving the station pic.twitter.com/Jpjwn3hWax
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 27, 2016