SpaceX delivered on its primary mission, to propel the Jason 3 satellite into orbit. The secondary mission, a barge landing, didn’t go quite as planned.
The company attempted to livestream the event, but with fog reducing visibility and a signal loss during the first stage we instead watched a broken feed in anticipation of what was going on. When the stream returned, a SpaceX representative noted that the Falcon 9 came in “on target” but much harder than expected. This time, the rocket survived the fall but didn’t remain upright and may have broken a strut in the process.
This marks the third failed attempt at landing on a barge for SpaceX. Ocean landings are difficult in their own right, but today’s mission was compounded with 12 to 15 foot seas.
Overall though, the mission was a success. The Falcon 9 successfully lifted the Jason 3 satellite into orbit.
SpaceX’s next two launches are also said to require sea-based landings. The next, set to take place no earlier than February 6, will deliver the SES-9 communications satellite into geostationary orbit, then, a suppy mission to the International Space Station, scheduled no earlier than March 20.
Fingers crossed that the Falcon 9 has more success on the sea in one (or both) of its next two missions.
➤ SpaceX Falcon delivers NASA/NOAA satellite but has rough landing [Ars Technica]