Tag Archives: rocket

Video of SpaceX Falcon 9 crashing and burning in the ocean is what progress looks like

18 Jan

I realize this might not be your first thought when watching the video clip, but it really is.

Those seven seconds of carnage were a great sign of success. That Falcon 9, about 10 minutes earlier on January 10th, was sitting on a launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The pad is 320km to the west of the barge. The barge is 100×300 feet, floating in the ocean.

The Falcon 9 launched, released the upper stage on it’s way to the International Space Station (which arrived flawlessly), and then the first stage managed to navigate itself to that barge.

That feat alone is pretty amazing.

The barge – all 30,000 sq feet of it – is TINY. Getting the Falcon 9 anywhere near it is impressive.

(Consider for comparison something with a landing envelope of say, 5 square kilometers (aka about 43,000,000 sq feet). In spaceflight terms, 5 sq km is an incredibly precise landing. 30,000 feet is 0.07% of 43,000,000 – or about 1500 times more precise.)

And then they almost landed it. If it hadn’t run out of that pesky hydraulic fluid used to control the aerodynamic fins – causing them to lock up – it probably would have made it, or at least come closer.

SpaceX will try again, and that’s what all this is about.

(Update: They’ll try again on the CRS6 launch, currently scheduled for Monday, April 13, 2015 @ 4:33 p.m. ET.)

Progress to make launching rockets more cost effective. Progress to find new ways to control rockets in flight. Progress to make them more efficient.

And one day, progress towards being able to fly a rocket to another world, land it, and then come back home with it — because remember, that is Elon Musk’s goal.

Video of that hard barge landing is exactly what progress looks like.

Read more here / watch a video clip of Jesse, Jerry, and yours truly chatting about it (and more!) on Sun News Network on Friday afternoon:

I can’t stop comparing these two images

4 Dec

I realize they don’t look identical, and I realize they’re taken in roughly the same place (so of course they look similar!) — but there’s something more to it than that.

One is Apollo 17 on the launch pad in December 1972, prior to it’s flight – and the last flight that took humans away from home.

The next is Orion on the pad this morning, prior to its first flight into space – part of a major step that will again take us away from home.

Apollo 17 sits atop a Saturn V on the launch pad in December 1972

Apollo 17 sits atop a Saturn V on the launch pad in December 1972

Orion sits atop a Delta IV Heavy on the launch pad in December 2004

Orion sits atop a Delta IV Heavy on the launch pad in December 2004

Just wait for Space Launch System!


How to: film canister rocket launch

8 Mar

Put this into the category of ‘fun things to do in the kitchen’ (while wearing proper eye protection).

The yard might be a better place for this one though, so you don’t put any film canister dents into your ceiling. When it takes off, it does have quite a pop (but equally it is pretty light).

What you need:

– 1/2 an Alka Seltzer tablet (aka sodium bicarbonate)
– 1 film canister
– 15mL of water
– wear eye protection

What you do:

– Put 15mL of water into the film canister (fill it about 1/2 way)
– Drop in the 1/2 Alka Seltzer into the water
– Put the lid on tight and give it a quick shake
– Put the canister down, upside down

Within a few seconds, the Alka Seltzer will partially dissolve. As it does this, it will give off some CO2 gas. As the pressure mounts, the film canister will get to a point where the lid can no longer contain the amount of gas inside.

When this happens, the lid pops off to release the pressure.



Thanks to Mr. Newton, we understand that when the pressure is released in a downward direction, the equal and opposite force reaction occurs, propelling the film canister up.

And in this particular example, I calculated the launch speed is 5.8m/s.

How I calculated this: the GoPro was shooting at 60fps, so each frame = 0.017 seconds. Looking at the footage, the canister moved about 10cm in a single frame. Using V=d/t, moving 10cm in 0.017s works out to 588cm/s or 5.8m/s.

Simple as that.

Modifications to try:

– Change the ratio of Alka Seltzer and water.
– Use vinegar & baking soda instead of sodium bicarbonate & water.
– If your camera doesn’t shoot at 60fps, just divide 1 by however many frames it shoots per second (e.g. if it films at 24fps, each frame is 0.04 seconds: 1/24=0.04).

Of course this little rocket doesn’t entirely do justice to how real rockets launch, in terms of fuel, ignition process, etc. – but it does provide a great little demo of Newton’s third law (with a little of the second law mixed in for good measure).

Jesse and I did this one on TV last week in the second half of our weekly Beyond The Sun space segment on Sun News Network, talking about a couple real-life rocket launches: