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SpaceX Didn’t Land Its Rocket

The third time was not a charm for the Falcon 9

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, shown here at its launch Tuesday, is expected to successfully deliver the Dragon spacecraft's payload to the International Space Station, but the rocket again failed to touch down at a free-floating pad in the ocean. (Julian Leek/Demotix/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

SpaceX hoped the third time would be a charm. But it just wasn’t to be—after successfully flinging supplies for the International Space Station into space, the private space company again failed to autonomously land its Falcon 9 rocket on a free-floating barge at sea.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk and his team attempted the landing as part of an ongoing attempt to prove the viability of reusable rockets in space. The Guardian notes that figuring out how to reuse rockets could free up more resources for space agencies, who could then reinvest the cash in accelerated exploration of space.

In January, the company attempted to dock the rocket at the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship. But though the company boasts of the rocket’s “smooth, controlled reentry,” it didn’t fare as well at sea.

At first, the attempt looked like it work, reports Gizmodo’s Chris Mills:

…The rocket touches the barge, in the correct orientation, and not going 600 miles an hour. But apparently, the lateral motion on the barge was too much, and the rocket keeled over.

Apparently the rocket “landed fine,” tweets Musk:

This Vine video shows the ill-fated touchdown more clearly:

But don’t think SpaceX will be deterred by something as miniscule as the third consecutive loss of a pricey rocket. The company is focusing instead on its spacecraft’s expected successful delivery of thousands of pounds of food, supplies and science experiments to the ISS this Friday. As usual, Musk doesn’t seem phased by a rocket that can launch, but not land:

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