After successfully delivering a US-European ocean-monitoring satellite into orbit, a SpaceX rocket made a hard landing on a floating barge in the roiling Pacific, breaking a support leg and toppling over.
SpaceX announcers said the first stage of the Falcon 9 was not upright after reaching the 300-by-170 foot landing pad in choppy seas about 320 km (200 miles) West of San Diego on Sunday.
The rocket launched as planned at 10.42 am from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Northwest of Los Angeles, streaking through a cloud-filled sky before eventually sending its second stage and a Jason-3 satellite into orbit.
The failed landing was a setback for the Hawthorne, California, company’s plan to reduce launch costs by reusing rockets rather than having them fall into the ocean. Meteorologists predicted swells of 10- to 13-feet where the barge waited for the landing attempt.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk said on Twitter that the rocket’s speed at touchdown was OK, “but a leg lockout didn’t latch, so it tipped over after landing.”