Close but no cigar for SpaceX on its latest attempt to land a rocket booster on a barge at sea for recovery and reuse, as the made it to its destination but landed “too hard” to survive.
Following a successful launch of its Dragon capsule on a resupply mission to the International Space Station, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said via Twitter that the rocket “landed fine” but tipped over after touching down due to “excess lateral velocity.”
Looks like Falcon landed fine, but excess lateral velocity caused it to tip over post landing pic.twitter.com/eJWzN6KSJa
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 14, 2015
Progress made over previous landing attempts
Despite the setback, the results have to be encouraging to the company, according to BBC News. SpaceX is attempting to reduce the costs of space travel by retrieving rockets and reusing them in future launches, and this latest attempt showed progress in those efforts.
By attempting to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 on a floating platform in the waters off of the coast of Jacksonville, the company is hoping to demonstrate that typically disposable rockets can be refurbished and reused in future launches, the British media outlet added.
During the first attempt at pulling off the maneuver in January, the booster was able to reach the 300-foot across by 100-foot wide barge, but landed too hard and was damaged. After its landing fins lost power, the engines tried and failed to restore the correct landing angle. The legs and the engine section were damaged as a result, and residual fuel triggered and explosion.
Falcon 9 first stage landing burn and touchdown on Just Read the Instructions https://t.co/4Te0BfT2Qn
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 15, 2015
Another attempt at landing the 70-foot wide, 14-story tall rocket was scheduled for February, but had to be called off due to choppy water conditions, according to the BBC. Even so, the Falcon 9 was able to practice the maneuver by slowing itself to a hover over the ocean waters.
Dragon capsule expected to arrive at ISS on Friday
Despite the issues with the Falcon 9 landing attempt, the primary reason for Tuesday’s launch was a success, as the Dragon capsule is now en route to the ISS with more than 4,000 pounds of supplies, equipment and science experiments. It is expected to arrive on Friday.
The launch, which emanated from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, is the sixth of 12 scheduled cargo missions under SpaceX’s $1.6 billion dollar contract with NASA. The ship will remain on the space station for five weeks before returning to Earth, landing in the Pacific Ocean with more than 3,000 pounds of equipment and refuse, according to media reports.