SpaceX Releases Raw Video of First Stage Landing Attempt

by Nancy Atkinson on April 30, 2014

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Video released today by SpaceX confirms the landing legs deployed successfully on the Falcon 9′s first stage booster, paving the way for future vertical soft touchdowns on land. SpaceX’s next-generation Falcon 9 rocket was tested following the launch of the CRS-3 mission for the Dragon spacecraft, which launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on April 18. This was the first test of the landing legs deployment with a re-entry burn and soft landing in the Atlantic Ocean.

The SpaceX CEO had mentioned the success during a post launch briefing and later tweeted further updates that the Falcon 9 first stage actually made a good water landing despite rough seas, with waves swelling at least six feet. He also spoke briefly of the success during a news conference at the National Press Club on April 25, saying video would be released soon.

The video above is actually a cleaned-up (repaired) version of the original. There are a short few frames which show the landing legs deployed just before splashdown, which Musk highlighted in a recent Tweet. Obviously this is not the greatest-quality video ever released, but exciting still the same. SpaceX is actually looking for help in cleaning up the video even further.

See the original raw video below:

“I’m happy to confirm we were able to do a soft landing of the Falcon 9 boost stage in the Atlantic and all the data we received back shows that it did a soft landing and was in a healthy condition after that,” Musk said at the April 25 news conference. Before the launch, SpaceX had estimated a 30 – 40 percent chance of successfully recovering the Falcon 9 first stage.

While rough seas made it impossible to recover the booster, it does mean that SpaceX successfully demonstrated the capability of landing the first stage back on land, helping to reduce costs by making them reusable.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

MotherDawg April 30, 2014 at 7:47 PM

I love SpaceX, Tesla and all Elon’s endeavors.
What I don’t understand is: We are in 2014, the digital age is here, camera’s weight and size are negligible, and like NASA’s MSL (Curiosity) THERE ARE NO pictures of the fun stuff. Some people need to be fired… I mean off with their heads with a two handed blade.
The ridiculous corporate footage being fed to the public is appalling. The chance of being on every bodies lips is by bewildering scenes. The few Grasshopper clips are ok but they are too fews. There should be dozens of cams showing telemetry and all. NASA’s Curiosity landing… not a single cam on the crane… WTF ???
And now this: The thing that is going to make every single rocket company on the planet OBSOLETE… we get crappy pictures.
I’m a skeptic… I don’t believe the sensors showed zero velocity.

Potatoswatter May 1, 2014 at 1:17 AM

If PR were the ultimate goal, then yes, but it’s not. Extra features drive complexity up and reliability down. The skycrane was disposable and had no communication ability, so how would we get the pictures off it?

But as for skepticism about this soft landing, I have to join you. Not least because such a “velocity sensor” doesn’t exist. There are accelerometers, but they can’t confirm zero speed. A pressure-based altimeter doesn’t work well in a storm, nor does a rangefinder over choppy seas. GPS is probably blocked by such weather and not accurate enough (in altitude) anyway.

In the end, there’s no such thing as a soft landing in a storm at sea.

Hopefully they have good enough evidence to get permission to try on land next time. The footage should be spectacular. But this… “cleaned up,” really? They should transmit a backup low-res analog signal because digital is too fragile.

Tony Mach May 1, 2014 at 8:16 AM

If you want people spending lots of money on producing nice video footage, I’d suggest keep your attention focused solely on NASA and ignore SpaceX.

NASA has several Youtube channels, camera crews, live-coverage of events, live commentators, live Russian-to-English translators, and what not – however NASA does not seem to have program in place directed at landing humans on Mars.

My impression is that SpaceX on the other side doesn’t bother with the niceties of producing video so trolls on the internet are happy, and instead invests their limited resources into bringing humans to Mars.

Personally, while I think having better video would be nice, I’d prefer crappy videos and a program directed at landing humans on Mars.

Richard Kirk May 1, 2014 at 8:25 AM

You can sometimes clean up digital video. I have done this sort of thing on corrupted still JPEG images.

The compression gives a string of codes that look essentially random: if there was obvious structure, then you could use this to compress it more. This means it is almost impossible to tell which bits have been flipped. Moreover, once your decoder encounters corrupted code, it will smash on through the data, producing garbage. There are some distinctive bursts of data that robustly identifies things like the start of an MPEG P-frame, so the decoder can re-sync even if the signal has been lost. But all the decode between the corruption and the re-sync will look like rubbish.

We are getting bits of recognizable image, so it is fair to assume the decoder is re-syncing, and the corruption is limited. If you flip a few bits and get back a sensible looking image, or section of an image; and the block of data ends in exactly the right place, then you can be fairly confident that you have repaired the damage accurately. The problem is to sift intelligently through the near-infinite possibilities of random corruption to find the repair that works.

I am guessing SpaceX know the rocket hovered because it continued to transmit, which it stopped doing when it went into the sea. A few fragments show the legs deployed. SpaceX are not compressed video restoration experts, so they put out the mangled clip and ask whether there is someone out there who knows how to fix it. This is a much more logical explanation then that they botched the landing, and then destroyed the evidence; and a lot more helpful than calling for sackings.

Gregb May 1, 2014 at 9:38 AM

The problem isn’t with the cameras (the couldn’t recover the cameras; only a few bits of the rocket were found). The problem was with the transmission of the footage back to base before it was lost. I think they said they had a very weak signal out there. Hopefully some video forensics/editing guru will come up with something good in the coming days, and get a lot of kudos in the process!

Fraser Cain May 1, 2014 at 4:09 PM

And I’m sure they’ll have this problem solved for next time. It’s pretty much SpaceX’s greatest leap forward in spaceflight. It would be nice to document it.

Lynn May 1, 2014 at 4:44 PM

I am familiar with the Shuttle booster recover and reuse program. It was phenomenal, a remarkable collaboration between NASA and private companies and I believe they only lost one booster in the entire history of the shuttle program rough seas as high as 30 feet. I wish more of the public had a chance to marvel at the technology that went into the recoverable ship and rockets before those in the press scorned it as just a low earth orbit vehicle. This looks like the landing of pixels to me, but Space X Musk is very sensitive to questioning so…

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