The private spaceflight company SpaceX did successfully launch an ocean studies satellite called Jason 3 into orbit yesterday (January 17, 2016). It did not succeed, however, in its long-sought goal of bringing the Falcon 9 launch vehicle back to Earth for an upright sea landing.
The rocket made it back to the floating ocean platform yesterday in the Pacific, and it did land upright. But as you can see from the Instagram video below – posted by SpaceX founder Elon Musk – the rocket then tipped and crashed.
SpaceX was successful in December in landing its rocket upright on land, and it admits sea landings are more difficult. Still, SpaceX said, it wants to have the options for both at-sea and on-land landings.
Alan Boyle at GeekWire – who covered the launch and landing thoroughly – said that yesterday’s sea landing was also because SpaceX wasn’t able to obtain regulatory approval for an on-land touchdown in California.
Boyle said SpaceX eventually hopes to get clearance to use what it calls “Landing Zone 2” on the U.S. West Coast.
SpaceX and other private spaceflight companies want the capability of bringing their rockets back for upright landings to reduce the cost of space travel.