Less than a month after billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk made history with a “revolutionary” vertical landing of a Falcon 9 on land, just 6 miles from where it took off in Florida, his space exploration company spectacularly failed to land the main part of a spent rocket on a floating ocean platform on Sunday.
The Space Exploration Technologies Corp., more commonly known as SpaceX, launched a Falcon 9 rocket to deploy an international ocean-monitoring satellite into the orbit. The mission was successful, but the space transportation firm could not land the 14-story booster on a floating ocean platform off the California coast.
It was the third attempt of its kind in roughly a year. However, this time around, the landing was botched because the leg lockout didn't latch properly, causing the booster to tip over and explode.
Musk also took to Twitter to explain what went wrong with the landing:
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, 201
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
SpaceX hopes to make space travel less expensive by demonstrating its prowess to re-use rockets by having it return to an unmanned ship floating in the Pacific Ocean off the Southern California coast.
Perhaps the fourth time will be the charm.