You can’t win ’em all. SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket Friday, but the company crashed the vehicle’s reusable booster during an attempted landing on a drone ship at sea.
After SpaceX's successful landing of a rocket on land in December, it was widely anticipated the company would fail in its landing at sea Friday because of the mission requirements. The rocket had successfully carried a heavy satellite into high orbit, leaving very little fuel to power the landing on the drone ship, which is already a difficult task even without the added fuel concerns.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter that the rocket “landed hard” on the ship and that while this landing didn’t work, the next attempt should have a better shot at success. The crash marked the fifth failed try at bringing a rocket to rest on the autonomous drone ship about the size of a football field. The ship was more than 300 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean. Three previous attempts at sea landings failed, and one expedition resulted in an explosion before it even got close to landing.
While the SpaceX landing was botched Friday, its mission was largely accomplished since the company successfully sent a telecommunications satellite into space for its client, SES. Servicing the Asia-Pacific region, the satellite was supposed to have been sent into months ago, but it was delayed by a failed launch in June.
The next Falcon 9 landing attempt will come in a couple of weeks when SpaceX will carry out a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA.
The latest mission had been delayed a number of times — because of problems with liquid oxygen in one case and due to a wayward boat in another — for more than a week, including an 11th-hour cancellation Sunday. The launch was finally able to take place Friday, a day that afforded SpaceX a 90 percent chance of favorable weather conditions.
Check out the posts below for photos and video of SpaceX’s launch and landing Friday:
— ABC News (@ABC) March 4, 2016
— Gizmodo (@Gizmodo) March 4, 2016
— Michael Seeley (@Mike_Seeley) March 4, 2016
— Phil Plait (@BadAstronomer) March 4, 2016
— Peter King (@PeterKingCBS) March 4, 2016