After more than a week of aborted launches, SpaceX’s most recent mission finally took off and deployed its cargo, the SES-9 satellite, successfully.
Unfortunately, the highly anticipated ocean-landing attempt for the Falcon 9 rocket’s reusable first stage wasn’t as successful.
After separating from the second stage of the rocket, which was continuing its trajectory to push the SES-9 communications satellite into Geostationary Transfer Orbit at an altitude of 40,600 kilometers, the first stage was heading back to Earth to try to land on a droneship sitting at sea.
As the first stage approached the landing stage, the video feed from the droneship began to cut out and the SpaceX team lost communications with the ship.
It wasn’t until about an hour later that Elon Musk tweeted that the “rocket landed hard on the droneship.”
On the video feed, before it cut out, the rocket did look like it was approaching the ship a little too fast and a little off center from the target, which didn’t bode well.
However, today’s ocean landing was expected to fail. The mission required the rocket to travel faster than it has previously to get the satellite into a higher orbit, so its re-entry was at a higher speed. At the same time, it had less propellant left to land softly and safely on the drone ship.
“Didn’t expect this one to work (v hot reentry), but next flight has a good chance,” Musk’s tweet continued.
All of SpaceX’s previous attempts at sea landings, which could ultimately create a fuel-efficient and cost-effective option for future space missions and travel, have so far failed as the landing area is smaller and the target ship moves with the ocean currents.
You can watch the launch video below.