Elon Musk’s landing streak is over: While SpaceX managed to launch its Falcon 9 rocket into geostationary transfer orbit today from Cape Canaveral at 10:29 a.m. today Eastern time and complete its mission of putting two satellites into orbit, the rocket landing on a droneship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean was all smoke and fire.
“Unfortunately, it appears as though we lost the vehicle in the landing,” said webcast host and SpaceX engineer Kate Tice during the mission webcast. “We don’t have a lot of details of this just yet, but the important thing to keep in mind is that we received a lot of good data from this.”
Soon enough, Musk let everybody know the booster rocket experienced a “RUD” — or “Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly” — on the droneship, adding it was “quite rapid.”
He also said it looks “like thrust was low on 1 of 3 landing engines. High [gravity] landings [are very] sensitive to all engines operating at max.” The Falcon 9 had to go very high in order to put the satellites into geosynchronous orbit.
There is good news on the horizon, though: “Upgrades [are] underway to enable rocket to compensate for a thrust shortfall on one of the three landing engines. Probably get there end of year,” Musk wrote on Twitter.
And finally, for fans of explosions, Musk posted this: “Landing video will be posted when we gain access to cameras on the droneship later today. Maybe hardest impact to date. Droneship still OK.”
The attempt to land the reusable rocket on the droneship Of Course I Still Love You was the company’s sixth this year. During the previous mission, which took place in May, SpaceX engineers managed to successfully land the rocket, vertically, on the landing zone in the middle of the sea.
Still, today’s mission was confirmed to be successful. Carrying two commercial satellites manufactured by Boeing, EUTELSAT 117 West B and ABS-2A, into orbit some 22,236 miles above the Earth’s surface, the rocket was confirmed to have made it to space. Here’s the second of the two satellites being deployed:
There was a little suspense involved with this landing: As SpaceX’s cameras panned onto the droneship’s landing zone, plumes of smoke filled the screen and the image soon cut out. During the live stream, Tice said, “You’re seeing what we’re seeing right now.”
The launch, as you can see, was a success:
Amid cheers celebrating a successful launch, SpaceX’s staff didn’t forget to put its win in context. “On a final note, our hearts go out to all the victims, their families and friends who are suffering from the week’s worth of tragedy in Orlando,” said Brian Mahlstedt, an automation software engineer for SpaceX. “From all of us at SpaceX, our thoughts and prayers are with you, and to those who are still recovering, we offer our best wishes for a full recovery.”