SpaceX launched the Falcon 9 today from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and while the rocket successfully deployed the satellite it was carrying, it tipped over after landing, the company said.
Well, at least the pieces were bigger this time! Won't be last RUD, but am optimistic about upcoming ship landing. pic.twitter.com/w007TccANJ— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 17, 2016
The rocket lifted off at 1:42 p.m. ET today, carrying the Jason-3, a NASA and NOAA satellite designed to measure the surface of the world's oceans.
While choppy waters in the ocean caused the video feed of the rocket to cut out, about 25 minutes after takeoff SpaceX said the rocket landed on the drone ship. SpaceX said the rocket appeared to have had a hard landing and a broken landing leg.
SpaceX then said the second stage re-ignition was successful and the Jason-3 satellite was deployed.
Second stage re-ignition successful. Jason-3 satellite has been deployed.— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 17, 2016
SpaceX founder Elon Musk then tweeted that during landing a leg lockout didn't latch, so it tipped over.
Definitely harder to land on a ship. Similar to an aircraft carrier vs land: much smaller target area, that's also translating & rotating.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 17, 2016
However, that was not what prevented it being good. Touchdown speed was ok, but a leg lockout didn't latch, so it tipped over after landing.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 17, 2016
SpaceX said, "After further data review, stage landed softly but leg 3 didn't lockout."
After further data review, stage landed softly but leg 3 didn't lockout. Was within 1.3 meters of droneship center— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 17, 2016
Musk has said drone ship landings are needed for "high velocity missions," which would allow payloads such as satellites to reach a higher orbit. Nailing the landing is huge for SpaceX and space travel as a whole because Musk has previously said he believes reusing rockets -- which cost as much as a commercial airplane -- could reduce the cost of access to space by a factor of one hundred.
Previous attempts had come close to landing on the barge but were destroyed when they narrowly missed the mark and suffered crash landings.
The precise landing of the Falcon 9 last month at Cape Canaveral, Florida, has many eager to see if Musk and his team can pull off their second rocket landing.