A NASA rocket built by the commercial spaceflight company SpaceX, launched successfully in the early hours of Saturday, but an attempt to land the craft's discarded booster rocket on an ocean barge did not go as planned, according to reports.
SpaceX's unmanned Dragon CRS-5's primary mission is to ferry supplies and equipment to the International Space Station (ISS). It is the company's fifth official resupply mission for the facility.
Lift-off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, for the Falcon 9 with its Dragon freighter occurred at 04:47 EST, and the Cargo ship was confirmed in orbit and en route to the ISS nine minutes later, the BBC reported.
The company also attempted to recover the Falcon 9 rocket that powered the launch, which would have a first in spaceflight, but the test was unsuccessful. Booster rockets used to power spacecraft launches are traditionally jettisoned to fall into the ocean.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted about the attempt to bring the rocket down in a soft landing to a barge in the ocean off the Florida coast.
Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho.
â€” Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 10, 2015
Musk also shared that the “ship itself is fine. Some of the support equipment on the deck will need to be replaced,” adding “Didn't get good landing/impact video. Pitch dark and foggy. Will piece it together from telemetry and ... actual pieces.”
The company views developing re-usable rockets as a key to its business model. On its website, it says, “SpaceX believes a fully and rapidly reusable rocket is the pivotal breakthrough needed to substantially reduce the cost of space access... a rapidly reusable space launch vehicle could reduce the cost of reaching Earth orbit by a hundredfold.”
Saturday's launch was the company's second attempt at getting the craft underway this week. Its first launch, scheduled for Tuesday, was aborted two minutes before it was due to begin. A problem with an engine-steering actuator on the rocket's second stage forced a last-minute scrub, NBC News reported.
The company will hold a press briefing later on Saturday to update on other aspects of the mission.