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SpaceX successfully launches rocket, fails to make landing

The rocket deposited a NASA satellite into low-Earth orbit, however one of its legs gave way after appearing to land on a ship at sea.

By Stephen Feller
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SpaceX successfully launches rocket, fails to make landing
First stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket attempts a landing aboard the spaceport drone ship "Just Read the Instructions" on Sunday. A lockout collet failed to latch on one the four legs, causing it to tip over post landing. The rocket was returning from having lifted the Jason-3 spacecraft into orbit. Jason-3, an international mission led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will help continue U.S.-European satellite measurements of global ocean height changes. Photo courtesy SpaceX | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- SpaceX successfully launched the Jason-3 satellite aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, however it tipped over and exploded when a landing leg failed during touchdown on a ship at sea.

Although the company has not landed a rocket at sea yet, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the latest attempt showed continued progress and he is "optimistic" about getting ship landings correct. The company successfully landed a Falcon 9 rocket on land for the first time last year, but has said the ship landings will prove to be easier.

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The Falcon 9 took off from Vandenburg Air Force Base on Sunday with the Jason-3 on board. The satellite was left in low-Earth orbit and will monitor sea level rise and the planet's oceans.

"Definitely harder to land on a ship. Similar to an aircraft carrier vs land: much smaller target area, that's also translating & rotating," Musk said in a series of tweets. "However, that was not what prevented it being good. Touchdown speed was ok, but a leg lockout didn't latch, so it tipped over after landing."

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The rocketed appeared to land successfully on the ship, according to video, however one of the landing legs gave way once the craft touched down, according to SpaceX, which said one of the legs didn't lock onto the craft, possiblly because of ice that formed due to fog.

"Well, at least the pieces were bigger this time!" Musk tweeted. "Won't be last [Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly], but am optimistic about upcoming ship landing."

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