Video: SpaceX Rocket Explodes Into Big Fireball After Failed Landing
SpaceX capped off yesterday's successful mission with some fireworks.
On Sunday, the Jason-3 satellite was launched into orbit by one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets. That went off without a problem. The tricky part was attempting to land the rocket onto an unmanned barge floating 200 miles off the Southern California coast. As you can see in the above video, that did not go so well.
The booster manages to land upright onto the drone ship Just Read The Instructions (unlike a previous attempt that just came diving in), but after a brief moment tips over into a big, spectacular fireball. According to SpaceX's Elon Musk, a locking device failed to latch on to one of the rocket's legs, causing it to tip over. "Root cause may have been ice buildup due to condensation from heavy fog at liftoff," wrote Musk on Instagram.
Despite the ultimate failure, it's quite a feat that SpaceX came close to pulling off. According to ABC News the landing was so precise the rocket came within four feet of the ship's center, all while encountering heavy surf. Not bad for a rocket that just came in from space.
Last month, SpaceX successfully landed a Falcon 9 at Cape Canaveral, but onto solid ground. Musk says that landing rockets onto barges is necessary for missions that send satellites into higher orbits, like Jason-3. The extra fuel spent prevents them from returning to the launch site.
Just like previous crash landings, at least Musk had a sense of humor about it: