CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX launched a shipment of groceries to the International Space Station on Tuesday, including the first espresso maker bound for orbit. But the company’s third attempt to land the leftover booster on an ocean platform failed.
The first-stage booster rocket apparently landed too hard on the barge and tipped over.
SpaceX chief Elon Musk wants to reuse the rockets rather than discard them in the ocean to reduce launch costs. The company will try again in June on the next supply run for NASA.
“It’s not quite clear what happened,” said Hans Koenigsmann, a SpaceX vice president. “But certainly it needs more work in the next couple missions.”
Despite improvements to the booster and landing platform, Musk still had predicted a less than 50 percent chance of success for the latest effort. He and other company officials repeatedly stressed that the landing test was secondary to getting the Dragon capsule filled with supplies into orbit.
Indeed, NASA congratulated SpaceX on Tuesday’s “spectacular” launch, delayed a day by stormy weather. Unprecedented images beamed down from orbit showed the protective covering popping off the Dragon and the two solar wings unfolding, like a newborn chick. Even SpaceX officials were impressed. “That is such a phenomenal picture,” Koenigsmann told reporters.