SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Nearly Sticks Landing on Droneship

Posted on January 18, 2016

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket attempting landing

SpaceX nearly managed to complete its goal of landing its reusable Falcon 9rocket on a ship at sea yesterday. The rocket hit its target on the droneship in the Pacific ocean but it was unable to stick the landing. One of the rocket's legs failed to lock properly causing the rocket to tip over and explode.

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk writes on Instagram, "Falcon lands on droneship, but the lockout collet doesn't latch on one the four legs, causing it to tip over post landing. Root cause may have been ice buildup due to condensation from heavy fog at liftoff."

Musk shared this video on Instagram of the rocket tipping over after landing:

Falcon lands on droneship, but the lockout collet doesn't latch on one the four legs, causing it to tip over post landing. Root cause may have been ice buildup due to condensation from heavy fog at liftoff.

A video posted by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on



The Falcon 9 rocket did successfully land last year. You can see a video of that landing here. Musk has said that the ship landing is more difficult. He writes on Twitter, "Definitely harder to land on a ship. Similar to an aircraft carrier vs land: much smaller target area, that's also translating & rotating."

Musk also explained why a ship landing is needed: "Ship landings are not needed for flexibility or to save fuel costs. Just not physically possible to return to launch site." He says ship landings are needed for high velocity missions and it is "all about speed." Musk explains, "If speed at stage separation > ~6000 km/hr. With a ship, no need to zero out lateral velocity, so can stage at up to ~9000 km/h."

The latest SpaceX return landing attempt was part of a mission to launch the Jason-3 satellite into space. The launch of the satellite was successful. Jason-3 is a satellite that will map and measure ocean surface topography.

Photo: SpaceX