SpaceX successfully launched its Dragon space capsule to the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday April 14 at 4:10 p.m., but the rocket it tried to re-land on an ocean platform tipped over just after touching down.
SpaceX is a private space company founded by billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, and its trying to revolutionise spaceflight by creating reusable rockets that can fly back and land after launching.
The technology is still in the works, and today was the second time that SpaceX tried to land one of its massive, 140-foot-tall Falcon 9 rockets on a platform floating offshore in the Atlantic ocean. The first landing attempt took place last January and ended with a fiery explosion.
This time SpaceX was much closer, but CEO Elon Musk broke the news that the rocket tipped over right after landing:
Here’s a closer picture of what the rocket looked like just before touchdown:
SpaceX is trying to prove that a future of affordable, commercial spaceflight is possible. The key to that future is reusable rockets that can be repeatedly launched and relaunched, eventually even within the same day.
They haven’t quite nailed it yet though. We all remember what happened the first time SpaceX attempted to land a rocket back in January:
Musk said the video from Tuesday’s topple-over landing won’t be available until the drone ship ferrying the landing platform returns to shore:
All we have right now is low frame rate video (basically pictures). Normal video will be posted when ship returns to port in a few days.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 14, 2015
At least the launch itself went off without a hitch:
SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft was successfully launched into space and it will now ferry 4,300 pounds of supplies to the astronauts floating aboard the ISS. These supplies include water, food, and important materials to support over 250 science experiments that NASA’s one-year-mission astronauts will complete during their long stay in space.
Now that the Dragon spacecraft has separated from the Falcon 9 rocket, it will complete a number of complex orbital maneuvers to eventually dock with the ISS on Friday, April 17.
The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket then fell back to Earth. SpaceX’s plan was to use GPS tracking to fly it back to a floating drone ship and have it softly touch down.
The rocket made it all the way back to the platform but unfortunately tipped over just after touching down.
Five years ago, a landing attempt like this was completely unheard of, but SpaceX is paving the way for a new era of reusable rockets. The company has gone to great lengths to build the foundation for a future of cheaper space travel.
SpaceX has yet to recover a rocket for reuse, but today’s launch shows that it’s closer than ever.
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