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SpaceX explains Feb 15 landing failure

March 3, 2021

By Chris Forrester

SpaceX says its February 15th failure to correctly return its Falcon 9 booster to its landing barge was down to a hole at the top of one of the Merlin engines.

Benji Reed, SpaceX’s director of human spaceflight, speaking March 1st at a NASA news conference, said the hole permitted hot gas into the engine which shut down as it was designed to do. But that meant that the rocket had insufficient downward thrust during its landing burn to reach a SpaceX drone landing stage stationed downrange in the Atlantic Ocean.

NASA is involved because there’s a flight planned for about April 20 carrying astronauts to the International Space Station. Then another SpaceX Dragon capsule is planned to bring astronauts back to Earth before May 9th.

A planned launch of 60 extra Starlink satellites (at 7.53pm Florida time, 00.53 UTC on March 3rd) was scrubbed because of bad weather.

A new launch date and time has been set for March 4th at 05.42am (Florida time, 10.42 UTC)

The Falcon 9 first stage rocket booster supporting this mission has previously flew on seven missions: the Iridium-8 mission, the Telstar 18 VANTAGE mission, and five earlier Starlink missions.

The launch should take the number of working satellites to about 1114 although the overall number of Starlink satellite to have launched to more than 1200. Some of the Starlink craft have failed in orbit.

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