Into the Wind

Space X's Falcon 9 first stage successfully land on the droneship Of Course I still Love you after boosting a Dragon capsule to the International Space Station, 2016 April 18

Click image to enlarge

Last month, on 2016 April 18, a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle delivered a Dragon cargo capsule to the International Space Station and successfully landed its 48-m first-stage booster on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic ocean. SpaceX intends to reuse such stages and perfect rocket landings on both Earth and Mars.

This landing occurred in high wind. In the accompanying photo, the Falcon tilts into the wind so that its thrust can balance both wind and gravity. Exhaust is downward and leftward, so thrust is upward and rightward. The upward component balances gravity and the rightward component balances wind. Seconds later the stage lands safely.

A high-resolution video of the landing is currently available on YouTube. Note how the Falcon 9 deploys its carbon-fiber legs just moments before landing, how the stage aligns vertically just before touchdown, how it hops on landing, how the drone ship pitches in the heavy seas. The stage is taller than the Statue of Liberty.

Simply marvelous.

About John F. Lindner

John F. Lindner was born in Sleepy Hollow, New York, and educated at the University of Vermont and Caltech. He is an emeritus professor of physics and astronomy at The College of Wooster and a visiting professor at North Carolina State University. He has enjoyed multiple yearlong sabbaticals at Georgia Tech, University of Portland, University of Hawai'i, and NCSU. His research interests include nonlinear dynamics, celestial mechanics, and neural networks.
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