SpaceX nailed the Falcon Heavy launch, but didn’t quite stick the landing

What happened to the center core?

At the post-launch press conference, Elon Musk explained that during its final landing burn, the center core didn’t have enough propellant to re-ignite all nine of its engines. It crash landed and was destroyed.

Today, at approximately 3:45 PM EST, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket — the largest operational rocket in the world — lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Despite suffering a few minor delays caused by weather, the launch went almost perfectly. After safely delivering its flashy payload (Elon Musk’s cherry-red Tesla roadster), the rocket’s first two stages fell back to Earth and landed themselves in spectacular fashion — touching down at Cape Canaveral almost simultaneously.

Shortly after, the third booster fell back and attempted to land itself on SpaceX’s autonomous droneship, Of Course I Still Love You, in the Atlantic ocean — but unfortunately, something went wrong. According to statements made by Elon Musk during a press conference held after the launch, the center core didn’t have enough propellant to re-ignite all nine of its Merlin engines during the final landing burn. As such, it crash landed and was destroyed.

Not one to shy away from failure, Musk remarked on the crash with some dry humor, telling reporters, “if the cameras didn’t get blown up as well, we’ll put that up in a blooper reel or something.”

Getty Images

Regardless of the fate of the Falcon Heavy’s center core, this historic achievement bodes well for the future of SpaceX. Unlike the company’s smaller Falcon 9 rockets, the Falcon Heavy is designed to carry heavier payloads. According to SpaceX, the rocket has the “ability to lift into orbit nearly 64 metric tons (141,000 lb) — a mass greater than a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel.”

Crucially, the Falcon Heavy can send these payloads into orbit not only around Earth, but also to the Moon and Mars. SpaceX definitely isn’t the only launch provider in the world that’s capable of sending payloads to Mars and the Moon — but because the Falcon Heavy’s first stage boosters are capable of being landed, recovered, and reused; SpaceX should be able to conduct these large rocket launches at a substantially lower cost than its competitors.

Decreasing the cost of rocket launches is critical if we ever hope to explore the Moon and colonize Mars — something that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk thinks will be possible in the next few years.

Emerging Tech

Virgin Galactic’s latest test flight takes it to the edge of space

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic has successfully carried out its fourth powered flight in Mojave, California. It was the company's most ambitious test flight yet -- and bodes well for the future.
Emerging Tech

Are e-cigarettes safe? Here’s what the most recent science says

Ecigarettes are widely regarded and advertised as a healthier alternative to cigarettes for people who are trying to kick the smoking habit. How safe are these cigarette alternatives? We went deep into the recent scientific literature to…
Emerging Tech

We’re going to the Red Planet! All the past, present, and future missions to Mars

SpaceX isn't the only organization pining to visit the Red Planet. Here's a detailed list of all operational and planned missions to Mars, along with explanations of their objectives, spacecraft details, and mission proposals.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.
Gaming

Relive Nintendo’s handheld golden age with the 25 best Game Boy Advance games

The Game Boy Advance was the swan song of the Game Boy era. It also happened to have a boatload of amazing games. We decided to countdown our 25 favorite GBA games. Check it out and let us know your favorites in the comments below!
Emerging Tech

There’s a giant EMP blaster in New Mexico. Don’t worry, it’s here to protect us

An electromagnetic pulse has the potential to disable virtually all electronics within a large area. To help protect against such a threat is a new, friendly EMP emitter. Here's how it works.
Product Review

This was 3D printed? With the Anycubic Photon, you can't tell

Never mind the fact that the Anycubic Photon 3D printer only costs 500 bucks. In terms of sheer print quality, this printer is on the same level as machines that cost six times as much.
Emerging Tech

There’s a new lab-grown meat startup on the block — and it has a secret weapon

Aleph Farms is developing lab-grown steaks with the same flavor, shape, texture, and structure as the real thing using beef cells isolated from living cows. Coming soon to a store near you?
Smart Home

This A.I.-enabled tech brings cutting-edge automation to grocery stores

Takeoff Technologies is working to make grocery deliveries fast, accurate, and convenient using A.I.-enabled technology to augment robotic grocery orders that can be completed in minutes.
Emerging Tech

The best 3D printers of 2018

On the hunt for a new 3D printer? We've got your back. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned veteran, this list of the best 3D printers has what you're looking for.
Emerging Tech

Postmates’ to roll out Minion-like autonomous delivery robots in 2019

Postmates is about to employ a cute little robot to work alongside its human delivery personnel. Called Serve, the wheel-based bot can carry items weighing up to 50 pounds and has a range of 30 miles.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Thrill-seekers will be able to pilot themselves in a giant drone as soon as 2019

Want to hitch a ride on a giant drone? The startup Lift Aircraft is gearing up to let paying customers fly its 18-rotor giant drones over assorted scenic landscapes across the U.S.
Emerging Tech

CRISPR gene therapy regulates hunger, staves off severe obesity in mice

Researchers from UC San Francisco have demonstrated how CRISPR gene editing can be used to prevent severe obesity in mice, without making a single edit to the mouse's genome. Here's how.