SpaceX: launch, check. Landing? Needs work
First stage's dicky knee folds on touchdown
Well, at least the pieces were bigger this time! Won't be last RUD, but am optimistic about upcoming ship landing. pic.twitter.com/w007TccANJ— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 17, 2016
Let's be fair: vertical-landing a rocket is difficult, so it's not surprising that SpaceX's latest attempt ranked as “almost right”.
After a launch in which nothing else went wrong, the attempt to drop the first stage gently on the good ship RTFM – just joking, its real name is Just Read The Instructions – the stage underwent a “rapid unscheduled disassembly”.
The reason it fell to bits, Musk speculated on Twitter, was that “a leg lockout didn't latch, so it tipped over after landing”.
Everything else about the mission was, however, a success. It's main mission, delivering the Jason-3 climate monitoring satellite to orbit, passed without incident, and mission controllers were able to navigate the stage to the barge accurately.
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.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 17, 2016
The landing attempt might have complicated by heavy seas at the barge-site.
Musk later Tweeted a link to a video of the failed landing:
Falcon lands on droneship, but the lockout collet doesn't latch on one the four legs, causing it… https://t.co/DpXsRQWal9— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 18, 2016