A SpaceX rocket successfully launched from a California air base on Sunday, but after putting a climate-monitoring satellite into orbit, the Falcon 9 rocket failed to stick the landing. In fairness, the unmanned Elon Musk rocket was attempting to land on a floating ocean platform that was being rocked by 10-to 15-foot swells at the time.
Out at sea for tomorrow's launch and landing attempt pic.twitter.com/9LMsj6qryI— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 17, 2016
The space company is attempting to land the rockets, making them reusable, to reduce the cost of space travel. SpaceX rockets run anywhere between $60 million and $90 million, according to CNN. The company has so far failed its attempted sea landings, but did successfully land one of its rockets for the first time last month at Cape Canaveral.
Despite the fiery end there were plenty of positives from the launch, according to the Wall Street Journal:
… [T]he trouble-free launch from a pad the company never used before for an operational mission—combined with the pinpoint navigation of the rocket’s first stage to its intended landing spot—underscored SpaceX’s flexibility and technical prowess. Guiding the rocket back in the correct trajectory and reducing its speed from about six times the speed of sound are the most complex factors in a successful return. After the botched landing, Mr. Musk, SpaceX’s founder, chief executive and top designer, sent a Tweet stressing that it is “definitely harder to land on a ship,” which he compared to the difference between aiming for “an aircraft carrier vs. land…”
The company has notched considerable progress in developing what ultimately are expected to be reusable rockets. Barely three years ago, Mr. Musk and his team estimated the chances of pulling off the technical coup of retrieving a rocket for another flight to be one in five. Even a year ago, he projected success of landing on a floating platform as a 50-50 proposition. Company officials have likened such an accomplishment to “trying to balance a rubber broomstick on your head in a windstorm.”
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
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