SpaceX fails in ambitious rocket re-use test

SpaceX's attempt to land a reusable rocket on a floating recovery platform ended in failure this week, with outspoken founder Elon Musk admitting it was "close, but no cigar" for the technology. The ambitious mission was to see the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket maneuver its way back down after propelling Dragon 9 the initial step of the way to the International Space Station, dropping down to a pad in the Atlantic ocean. If successful, it would have been one of the most impressive acts of recycling around, with the first stage a whopping fourteen-stories tall.

Reusing such a massive component of space travel – rather than, as is currently the case, such rocket stages simply crashing down into the ocean as scrap – is one of the core tenets of SpaceX's ongoing mission.

By reusing the Falcon 9 stage, it could further bring down the cost of taking materiel and, eventually, people into space. For safety, the "spaceport drone ship" was fully autonomous.

While Musk was clearly disappointed, discussing the attempt on Twitter, he was nonetheless hopeful about the company's second attempt at the challenge.

According to Musk, the primary issue was one of running out of hydraulic fluid just before the rocket tried to land. It's a problem SpaceX has already moved to deal with, equipping the next rocket with 50-percent more of the fluid.

Originally, the Dragon 9 mission was scheduled to launch on Tuesday last week, but SpaceX postponed it due to technical issues. Those were in the second stage of the rocket, however, which takes over once the first stage falls away.