JUN 09, 2020 3:25 PM PDT

Why SpaceX's Droneship Footage Often Cuts Out During Landings

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

SpaceX has nearly mastered the art of landing the first stages of the plethora of rockets its sends into space so that they can be refurbished and reused. Where the company lands its first stages varies from one launch to the next, sometimes happening on solid ground near the launch site, and other times, happening several miles offshore on a droneship floating in the Atlantic Ocean.

If you’ve watched the live broadcasts of SpaceX’s rocket launches before, then you’ve likely noticed that SpaceX’s droneship landing footage often cuts out right before the rocket touches down on the landing pad. In fact, it happened just recently when the commercial space company performed its historic Demo-2 launch for NASA just under a couple of weeks ago.

No, this isn’t SpaceX doing some dirty video editing to stage their landings, but rather a phenomenon having to do with the physics of the landing itself. Instead, as we learn in this video, it has do with signal disruptions that are brought about as the rocket approaches the droneship; or more specifically, the massive vibrations that the rocket’s engines impose on it.

SpaceX streams its droneship footage to the rest of the world via a satellite-based signal broadcast. Getting that data to a satellite necessitates a highly directional antenna that needs to maintain a precise line of sight between the satellite and the droneship. Unfortunately, the aforementioned line of sight gets interrupted when the droneship begins shifting around due to the vibrations from the rocket’s engines when it lands.

The footage usually returns after the rocket lands and the droneship stabilizes, and this happens because the vibrations cease, enabling the droneship to reconnect its line of sight with the satellite. On the other hand, this also means that we miss the most exciting part. The good news is, SpaceX always uploads the camera footage days later despite being unable to provide it in real time…

Related: How many times can a Falcon 9 rocket be re-used?

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUN 09, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Can Time Flow Backward? Very Unlikely According to a Recent Black Hole Simulation
JUN 09, 2020
Can Time Flow Backward? Very Unlikely According to a Recent Black Hole Simulation
The idea of time in physics is often associated with the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the entropy of ...
JUN 15, 2020
Space & Astronomy
This Drop Tower Simulates Near-Zero Gravity On Earth
JUN 15, 2020
This Drop Tower Simulates Near-Zero Gravity On Earth
It’s almost impossible to replicate the effects of zero gravity here on Earth, and that’s one of the reasons ...
JUL 29, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Molecular Footloose: Carbon Monoxide Molecules "Square Dance" with Each Other
JUL 29, 2020
Molecular Footloose: Carbon Monoxide Molecules "Square Dance" with Each Other
The act of "dancing" is not limited to humans, as scientists recently discovered. According to a group of Holl ...
AUG 05, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Mars Was Shaped by Ice Sheets - not Rivers
AUG 05, 2020
Mars Was Shaped by Ice Sheets - not Rivers
Physicists have found that in the distant past, Mars may not have been warm enough to carry vast oceans. Instead, in new ...
SEP 24, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Turning Pulsars into Deep Space Beacons
SEP 24, 2020
Turning Pulsars into Deep Space Beacons
Navigating beyond Earth's orbit is tricky. Any misstep in movement could lead to the crushes of space probes and ves ...
OCT 29, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Einstein: Gravity? What Gravity?
OCT 29, 2020
Einstein: Gravity? What Gravity?
Try imagining a fictional conversation between Issac Newton and Albert Einstein: "The apple falls toward the ground ...
Loading Comments...