SpaceX suffers ‘bummer’ landing, first-stage booster crashes into ocean

Dragon Falcon 9 launch CRS-14

Dragon Falcon 9 launch CRS-14

The US military described Wednesday's mission as "a successful launch but a non-nominal landing".

Christmas turkey rocketed toward the International Space Station today, along with cranberry sauce, candied yams and the obligatory fruitcake. The first-stage booster aimed for a touchdown on land back at Cape Canaveral, once its job was done, but ended up smashing into the Atlantic Ocean instead.

Elon Musk, the chief executive of SpaceX, said in a series of tweets that a hydraulic pump used for the grid fins malfunctioned, which prevented them from working properly and leading to the stage spinning up.

"It actually targets a landing point in the water as it loses control", said Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of Build and Flight Reliability at SpaceX, as he narrated an onboard camera video of the rocket's descent in a post-launch press conference. "Trying to stay safe".

The feed was then cut from the webcast, but groans and cheers could be heard from the crowd at SpaceX headquarters in California as SpaceX engineer Tom Praderio, who was co-hosting the webcast, conveyed the information about the rocket's water landing.

"It's really incredible how it stopped rotating at the very end as the landing legs come out", Koenigsmann said.

"Falcon landed just out to sea. And continues to work".

Falcon 9 is now the only reusable rocket booster, which is a major selling point for SpaceX. The horizon is vertical, at right; the waffle-iron-looking things are two of the booster's "grid fins". "The important part here is that we have a safety function on board that makes sure that the vehicle does not go on land until everything's okay, and that worked perfectly". "Even if it is on land it avoids buildings". It is very smart that way.

"So, public safety was well-protected here", Koenigsmann said.

The rocket is carrying the Dragon spacecraft in orbit.

- Three days and 3,000 miles apart, SpaceX is aiming for their second launch this week, this time with a cargo flight to the space station. The booster toppled over but remained afloat, and SpaceX was sending out boats to tow the stage back to the harbor at neighboring Port Canaveral. He lives in Findlay, Ohio, not far from Neil Armstrong's birthplace of Wapakoneta. The company's relationship with NASA and partnership for manned space flights in the near future will be a major test. Cole reached out to SpaceFlight Insider and asked to join SFI as the first member of the organization's "Team Glenn".