CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., April 13 (UPI) -- SpaceX and NASA successfully launched the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule toward the International Space Station on Tuesday. The ISS resupply mission had originally be scheduled for Monday, but was delayed 24 hours due to weather.
Tuesday's successful blastoff offered SpaceX another chance to test its game-changing reusable rocket technology. But the technology once again failed.
"Rocket landed on droneship, but too hard for survival," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter.
After a close call and a few scratched attempts over the last several months, SpaceX still hasn't been able to perfect the landing process. As happened last time, the rocket's approach was too hot.
The main purpose of the mission (from NASA's perspective) was to deliver supplies to the astronauts aboard the space station via SpaceX's Dragon capsule. That's expected to happen later this week, as the flight from Earth to the space station takes a few days. Once received, the capsule will remain attached to ISS for several weeks before being loaded with waste and the results of several scientific experiments and returned to Earth.
This is SpaceX's sixth resupply launch as part of its multi-billion dollar contract with NASA. While a successful resupply effort isn't exactly a sure thing, NASA and SpaceX have gotten rather proficient. The real draw, with each resupply mission, is the chance for SpaceX return its Falcon 9 rocket to Earth -- unscathed and ready for reuse.
Like last time, Tuesday's attempt went just as planned until the last few fatal seconds. The initial rocket stage successfully detach from the rest of Falcon 9 launch vehicle just 2.5 minutes into flight time. As the Dragon capsule and second-stage thrusters continued their path toward the space station, the first stage rocket began to arc back towards Earth. Its trajectory -- aided by its guiding thrusters -- accurately placed it on a path to the target platform floating in the Atlantic, some 200 miles off the coast of Jacksonville, Fla.
That part is apparently no problem. Hitting the target a safe speed is the issue. Once again, it's engines couldn't generate enough backward thrust to slow down the rocket and enable a safe landing.
Perfecting reusable rocket technology will reduce waste and save SpaceX a lot of money, eliminating the need to build a new rocket each time it's scheduled to execute a resupply mission as part of its multibillion-dollar contract with NASA.
The Dragon capsule is carrying some 4,400 pounds of food and scientific equipment to the space station, where two of the astronauts (one Russian and one American) continue to acclimate to the first month of their yearlong mission.
Included in the latest resupply cargo is what will be a significant upgrade to space-based coffee culture. ISS is getting a microgravity espresso machine. Space station residents were supposed to begin sipping cappuccinos late last year, but a series of delays pushed back the delivery of the ISSPresso machine, built by Italian company Lavazza, until now.