Private space agency SpaceX was finally able to complete the latest launch of its Falcon 9 rocket on Friday afternoon, after more than a week of delays and difficulties. The Elon Musk-founded company had been commissioned by SES to send a communications satellite into orbit, a mission it was able to successfully complete. However, on SpaceX's longer term goal of landing re-usable rockets, this latest attempt was another bust.
SpaceX's landing procedure involves the Falcon 9 rocket returning to Earth and gently touching down on a platform attached to an autonomous drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. While their third attempt was the closest they came to success, this mission marks zero out of four.
Fortunately, SpaceX didn't have high hopes of a safe landing, as a number of conditions required for delivering the satellite made it very unlikely. The Falcon 9 rocket had a very heavy payload this time, plus the fact that the satellite needed to be launched into a high orbit, which meant a lot of fuel had to be used, leaving very little left for the powered landing. Musk tweeted afterwards that the rocket "landed hard" as a result of not being able to slow itself down properly.
SpaceX has been able to make one successful rocket landing, but that was on solid ground, back in December. These are considered much easier than landings on the sea platform, as the ground remains flat and doesn't move, while the drone ship can be uneven.
As for the SES satellite, the primary goal of the mission, the launch was a success. Once it moves into its intended orbit, it will provide internet, TV, and mobile services to 20 Southeast Asian nations. SpaceX's next rocket launch is scheduled in a couple of weeks, where it will deliver cargo supplies to the International Space Station for NASA. Musk says the chances are good for the mission to see a successful landing, but has yet to confirm if it will be on land or sea.
SOURCE Elon Musk/Twitter