Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO, shared a stunning video on his Instagram account yesterday, saying „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."
The 14-story-tall Falcon 9 rocket was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base near Los Angeles. It successfully delivered an ocean-monitoring satellite into orbit and then attempted to land on an autonomous drone ship, a floating barge, in the Pacific Ocean, but it tipped over and exploded.
The project literally went to pieces and messed up SpaceX's plans which include reusing rockets (instead of letting them fall into the ocean like they usually do). SpaceX will now have to build a brand new rocket for the next launch, which, according to Musk, will cost the company approximately $60 million. Creating multi-use rockets would indeed be a major breakthrough, making taking off into space substantially cheaper.
Falcon 9 is said to have crashed due to the rocket's stabilizing fins running out of hydraulic fuel just before landing. Initially, the company stated the reason for a failed landing was the rocket coming in too hard, but after further investigation it was concluded the blame is on one of the rocket's legs that failed to lock. It was also reported that the waves were up to 15 feet high during landing, which might have been an additional reason for the mishap, however Musk commented that even if the rocket landed on solid ground, the results might have been just the same.
Still, Musk feels confident about how close to making it SpaceX really is, despite this being their third failed attempt. His comment on the last attempted landing "close, but no cigar" definitely shows the will to move on. Musk stated the biggest challenge was getting the rocket to land on the barge – which it did, albeit not exactly as planned.
A few more launches with ocean landings are planned in the future – sooner or later, they will nail that landing, we are confident of that! Good luck!