UPDATE: 3:45 p.m. EST — The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched Sunday broke apart as it tried to land on a floating platform in the Pacific. It was the fourth such failure for the company’s recyclable rocket, Agence France-Presse reported.
The rocket took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and the primary focus went as planned. A $180 million U.S.-French satellite is en route to orbit.
SpaceX said it lost contact with the droneship on which the rocket was supposed to land.
SpaceX is launching NASA's ocean-monitoring satellite from the Space Launch Complex 4 at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base Sunday. SpaceX already has successfully returned its Falcon 9 rocket on land. Now, the company will attempt an ocean landing. The SpaceX launch live stream coverage began at 11 a.m. EST, but the launch window begins at 1:42 p.m. EST.
SpaceX came quite close to landing its Falcon 9 rocket on an ocean barge named "Just Read the Instructions" in 2015. The company made two attempts, but each rocket exploded upon landing. In January 2015, the rocket ran out of hydraulic fuel, leading to a hard landing on the ocean barge.
Out at sea for tomorrow's launch and landing attempt pic.twitter.com/9LMsj6qryI
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 17, 2016
The attempt in April was more successful, but the Falcon 9 rocket tipped over after landing. The rocket did not respond to commands to reduce the thrust, leading to another failed attempt.
After the Dragon spacecraft carrying cargo exploded just after liftoff on June 28, 2015, SpaceX made its successful return to spaceflight with a commercial satellite launch in December. The commercial rocket company unveiled an upgraded Falcon 9 rocket that could carry heavier payloads into low-Earth orbit.
After delivering the ORBCOMM-2 satellites, SpaceX attempted its first ever ground-based landing of the first stage — the part of the rocket that houses the fuel and engines — of the Falcon 9 rocket. Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin was the first to successfully land a space vehicle after a launch to space on Nov. 23, 2015, but the New Shepard completed that feat during a test flight.
Sunday's launch will be the last time SpaceX uses its older configuration of the Falcon 9 rocket — the same setup the company used in the previous ocean landing attempts.
Jason-3 will measure ocean surface changes using five scientific instruments. "The Jason-3 mission will continue U.S.-European satellite measurements of the topography of the ocean surface. It will continue the ability to monitor and precisely measure global sea surface heights, monitor the intensification of tropical cyclones and support seasonal and coastal forecasts," NASA explained.
You can watch NASA's Jason-3 launch live stream below. The Jason-3 liftoff window begins at 1:42:18 p.m. EST.
SpaceX has its own live stream with coverage of the launch and ocean landing attempt beginning at 1:15 p.m. EST.