SpaceX Rocket Botches Landing At Sea After Successful Launch

A third at-sea landing attempt proved not to be the charm for billionaire Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX.

On Sunday, SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket into orbit and deployed an international ocean-monitoring satellite, but was unable to safely land its 14-story booster on a drone ship off the California coast.

First stage on target at droneship but looks like hard landing; broke landing leg. Primary mission remains nominal →

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 17, 2016

Sunday’s failed attempt comes less than a month after SpaceX made history with an epic vertical landing of a Falcon 9 on land, just 6 miles from where it took off at Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was a moment Musk called “revolutionary” and a “critical step along the way to being able to establish a city on Mars.”

Not surprisingly, landing the rockets on floating barges the size of football fields, however, has proven quite a challenge. SpaceX is zero for three in its attempts to do so.

“Unfortunately, we are not standing upright on the drone ship right now,” a SpaceX commentator confirmed for the roughly 100,000 anxious viewers who had tuned into a live webcast but were unable to watch the landing attempt because of a last-minute video problem.

#spacex rocket landing feed freezes seconds before landing. Space nerds everywhere freaking out (includes me!) DID IT LAND OR NOT???

— David Board (@Stage2David) January 17, 2016

In the wake of Sunday’s outcome, Musk explained what went wrong on Twitter: