Space & Innovation

SpaceX Rocket Launches Satellites, Misses Ocean Landing

After a string of successful touchdowns on a platform in the ocean, a Falcon rocket's returning first-stage falls short.

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Image: First-stage of the rocket used to launch a satellite in April coming back to Port Canaveral, Florida. The rocket flying Wednesday was destroyed during its landing attempt. Credit: SpaceX A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Florida on Wednesday to put a pair of communications satellite into orbit, but minutes later botched an attempted landing on a platform in the ocean.

The rocket nailed two similar high-speed returns to Earth in May and two landings from less-demanding, low-Earth orbit missions in April and December.

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The December landing was SpaceX's first and so far only touchdown on the ground, a feat it intends to try again in July after sending a cargo ship on its way to the International Space Station for NASA.

Live video on Wednesday showed the final seconds of the rocket's first-stage descent onto SpaceX's floating landing pad, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean east of the company's Cape Canaveral, Florida, launch site.

Thick smoke obscured the view, raising questions about whether the rocket had remained intact after touchdown.

"Ascent phase & satellites look good, but booster rocket had a RUD on droneship," SpaceX chief Elon Musk later posted on Twitter.

"RUD" stands for "Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly."

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One of three engines used to slow the rocket for landing apparently was not operating at full thrust, which is critical for high-velocity returns, Musk noted.

The rocket flying on Wednesday delivered communications satellites owned by Eutelsat and the Asia Broadcast System into high-altitude orbits around Earth.

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