Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched to space on Wednesday, but it didn’t quite stick the landing.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully lifted off from a launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying 5,600 pounds of supplies inside a Dragon capsule destined for the International Space Station.
That primary part of the mission was successful, but as usual, the first stage of the Falcon 9 was expected to come back in for a landing on solid ground in Florida.
Unfortunately, the booster made a “water landing” instead when something went wrong during its descent.
Ultimately, the booster took an unplanned swim. No one appears to have been hurt during the mishap.
Before the water landing, the webcast showed the booster starting to spin out of control on the way back to Earth.
This mishap shouldn’t deal too much of a blow to SpaceX and its reputation for reusability. The company’s rate of success with these landings has been stellar since its first successful landing in 2015.
The commercial space company reused a Dragon capsule that last sent supplies to the space station in February 2017 — again showcasing the reusability of its spacecraft.
And reusability, as SpaceX reminded people on Twitter this week, “is key to reducing costs and enabling large groups of people to travel to space and ultimately live on other planets.”
What’s more, this was SpaceX’s sixteenth resupply mission to space station.
Now that the company has reliably sent cargo to the orbiting station for years, the next critical step hinges on proving that SpaceX can safely send NASA astronauts to and from the space station.
Grid fin hydraulic pump stalled, so Falcon landed just out to sea. Appears to be undamaged & is transmitting data. Recovery ship dispatched.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 5, 2018
And this may happen soon.
SpaceX is set to demo its first crew capsule in January from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
Though this first test will be uncrewed, the private company could send NASA astronauts to the station as early as the summer of 2019.
For the year, SpaceX has now successfully launched 20 rockets to space. This would have been the company’s 33rd landing back on Earth.