At the fifth time of asking, SpaceX’s latest Falcon 9 rocket finally took off on Friday, March 4. Delays had seen the launch pushed back for almost two weeks, but it successfully launched at 6.35 p.m. EST (11.35 p.m. GMT) on Friday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
This mission was taking the SES-9 commercial communications satellite into orbit for the Luxembourg-based company SES. This satellite was taken to a geostationary orbit, one where the satellite is always above the same point on Earth.
But after delivering the satellite to orbit, SpaceX then attempted again to land the first stage of the rocket on a floating barge, something that has eluded the company so far. Prior to the launch, CEO Elon Musk had already said the chances of a landing being a success on this attempt were slim, owing to the high altitude required for the launch. This left less fuel available for the rocket to successfully land on the barge, 600 kilometers (370 miles) from the launch site.
That proved to be the case, with the first stage of the rocket crashing into the barge, rather than coming to a soft landing. That it made it to the barge at all is an achievement in itself, though. There’s no footage of the landing attempt yet, but we expect to see something from SpaceX soon.
“Rocket landed hard on the droneship,” Musk tweeted. “Didn't expect this one to work (v hot reentry), but next flight has a good chance.”
Nonetheless, the data from the landing will be useful to SpaceX as it continues to refine its landings, in an effort to make their rockets reusable. Using a barge gives SpaceX more options for landings, as the rockets can land far from the launch site.
The satellite itself was successfully placed in its target orbit of 40,600 kilometers (25,200 miles), where it will be used to support communications in the Asia-Pacific region.
You can check out a full replay of the launch below.