The company also is still waiting for environmental approval to bring its rockets back to its west coast launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base, which is why SpaceX opted for an ocean landing attempt on Sunday.
The primary goal of the mission was to put the Jason-3 satellite into an 830-mile high orbit inclined 66 degrees relative to the equator. From that vantage point, the spacecraft, a joint venture of several U.S. and European agencies, will use its instruments to measure the height of the oceans to an accuracy of one inch.
The oceans are becoming ground zero in efforts to track and predict Earth's changing climate.
"With all the extra heat that's being absorbed by the ocean, the waters are expanding," said oceanographer Josh Willis, with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
Falcon Returns: SpaceX Makes Historic Rocket Landing
Oceans also collect runoff water from melting glaciers and ice sheets, which also are reacting to warming temperatures, he added.
"These two things together cause global sea levels to rise ... That rise is really our most powerful tool for measuring human-caused climate change," Willis said.