SpaceX Falcon 9 Booster Rocket carrying the Dragon Spacecraft launches from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida in 2012. On Saturday, the company's first attempt to land the rocket for reuse was "close, but no cigar," according to CEO Elon Musk. File photo by Joe Marino/Bill Cantrell/UPI | License Photo
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Jan. 10 (UPI) -- SpaceX launched a Dragon cargo capsule to resupply the International Space Station, but its attempt to land its Falcon 9 rocket on a sea platform failed.
The rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida at about 4:47 a.m. local time. The company hopes to reuse the first stage Falcon rocket on multiple missions by completing a soft landing on a platform at sea.
CEO Elon Musk tweeted Saturday morning that the rocket came down hard during the test landing.
The aerospace company will continue trying for the landing; if successful, the reusable rocket can dramatically reduce launch costs.
In previous tests, the Falcon 9 would relight its engines to slow its descent back to Earth, where it simply hovered over the water before being lost without a platform to land on. Saturday's test was the first use of a drone ship for the landing.
The company had said a successful landing on this first test would be immensely difficult, not least because the landing ship is a moving target less than 100 meters wide. Despite the hard landing, the rocket hit its target -- an encouraging sign.
The Dragon capsule is set to reach ISS on Monday. It is the first resupply mission since the October explosion of Orbital Sciences' unmanned Antares rocket. Orbital pinned the catastrophic failure on the rocket's Russian-made engines.