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SpaceX successfully launches satellite but rocket crash lands on drone ship again

SpaceX successfully launched a satellite into space on Friday, but its latest attempt to safely return the rocket by landing it on a floating barge once again ended in failure.

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, tweeted that the “rocket landed hard on the drone ship,” adding, “Didn’t expect this one to work.”

He said the Falcon 9 rocket’s reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere had been “very hot,” but believes the team stands “a good chance” of nailing the tricky drone-ship landing in its next attempt, which could take place at the end of this month or early next.

Minutes after a flawless launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Friday night, the Falcon 9 put the SES-9 commercial communications satellite safely into orbit. But the rocket exploded when it landed on the barge floating several hundred miles off the coast of Florida.

The live video feed cut out minutes before the rocket came down, but going by past failed efforts, the landing probably looked something like this one.

Related: It’s ‘harder to land on a ship,’ SpaceX CEO says after rocket explodes on touchdown

Over the last 14 months, SpaceX has seen several of its rockets topple over and explode on touchdown as the team continues to work out how to achieve a safe landing on its floating barge, which is about the size of a football field.

As if the feat wasn’t already complex enough (check out the various stages below), this latest SES-9 mission posed more challenges than usual, a reality which led the team to state that it didn’t have high hopes for this particular landing. Sadly, it was right.

spacex landing diagram

SpaceX has already successfully landed its rocket on solid ground, but achieving a barge landing would give the company more flexibility when planning future missions, which should one day include ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station, and, in the long term, trips into deep space. The main goal is to create a reusable rocket system to help take space travel into a new era of affordability and efficiency.

SpaceX clearly still has some way to go before perfecting its technology, but Musk is confident the team will achieve its bold ambitions in time.