Anyone wondering what an RUD (Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly) means got their answer Friday morning when Elon Musk tweeted photos showing the Falcon 9 reusable rocket’s recent attempt to land on a robotic barge in the ocean 200 miles east of Jacksonville, Florida.
In short: It’s a term, originating from spacecraft simulator Kerbal Space Program, meaning that something went explosively wrong.
Musk’s private spaceflight company SpaceX launched a resupply mission to the International Space Station on January 10, carrying more than 5,000 pounds of equipment for astronauts. Roughly 10 minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9 rocket detached from the main cargo capsule and automatically set a course to land on the floating platform, the first time such a feat had been attempted.
The goal was that leftover fuel and hydraulically controlled fins would allow the Falcon 9 to control its descent, rather than falling into the ocean as other first-stage rockets do after a launch.
Things didn’t happen quite so smoothly, though.
“Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard,” Musk tweeted last Saturday, adding “Close, but no cigar this time.” In a subsequent message, Musk noted that the robotic platform was fine, although some of the support equipment on deck would need to be replaced.
What appears to have happened is that the craft used up too much of its hydraulic fluid too quickly, so that it hit the landing platform in an explosive scene.
In a Twitter conversation with Oculus VR CTO John Carmack, Musk sent out the following messages: