SpaceX founder Elon Musk has released video of its rocket tipping over upon landing and exploding.
Yesterday Space Explorations Technologies Corp. attempted a successful touchdown on a drone ship for its Falcon 9 rocket booster, after already successfully delivering the Jason-3 scientific satellite into orbit.
The attempted landing at sea was SpaceX's third, after two previous failures.
Definitely harder to land on a ship. Similar to an aircraft carrier vs land: much smaller target area, that's also translating & rotating.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 17, 2016
However, that was not what prevented it being good. Touchdown speed was ok, but a leg lockout didn't latch, so it tipped over after landing.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 17, 2016
Today he posted a video of the rocket booster landing and tipping over, saying the root cause could have been "ice buildup due to condensation from heavy fog at liftoff."
Watch: The rocket lands, tips, explodes
Booster rockets have typically been left to tumble back to Earth after launch, leaving them broken up by the intense heat of re-entering the atmosphere. Landing them upright may help winnow the cost of access to space by a hundredfold, Musk has estimated, because the bulk of launch costs comes from building a rocket that flies only once.
Recycling engines and the Falcon 9's 14-story, aluminum- lithium alloy first stage also may enable SpaceX, already the cheapest launch provider in its category, to further undercut U.S. and European rivals.
Watch: The successful Florida booster landing:
SpaceX made history last month by landing one of its Falcon 9 rocket stages on land at Cape Canaveral, Florida. But SpaceX has wanted to perfect the landing-at-sea technique, despite the immense technical challenges of trying to slow a rocket traveling roughly 5,000 miles per hour (8,045 kilometers per hour) and land it on a platform bobbing in the Pacific Ocean.
Watch: SpaceX's first attempt at a sea landing fail
Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on Mars. In May, SpaceX was certified by the Air Force to compete for military launches with United Launch Alliance LLC, a joint venture of Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. Last week, SpaceX was among three winners in another round of contracts to haul cargo to the International Space Station.