SpaceX Launch Successful, But Ends Streak With Falcon 9 Crash Landing

By Andrew Collins , Jun 16, 2016 04:30 AM EDT

The Falcon 9 rocket broke its landing streak Wednesday, crashing into the drone ship after a failed re-entry. The rocket successfully launched and delivered two commercial satellites into orbit.

SpaceX has bragging rights for successfully landing its Falcon 9 rocket three times in as many months, but CEO Elon Musk confirmed the recent attempt failed due to technical conditions. The company admitted the task would be difficult, and Musk said the failed landing was "the hardest impact to date."

Successful Launch And Deployment

The launch and satellite deployment was smooth by comparison, though. Fox News reports the Falcon 9 rocket peaked at supersonic speed after lift-off, dropping the first stage rocket to Earth as it proceeded into orbit. "Grid fins" controlled the rocket's descent.

Conditions onboard the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" was obscured by smoke as the first stage rocket attempted to land. The company later confirmed the landing was unsuccessful.

Crash And Burn

"Ascent phase & satellites look good, but booster rocket had a RUD on droneship. RUD = Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly :)," Musk said, noting that one out of the three landing engines registered low-level thrust. It's either the Falcon 9 rocket crash-landed or tipped into the ocean before touchdown.

The rocket launched 10:29 AM E.T. from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, off the coast of Florida. Musk initially predicted landing the craft would be more difficult because of the high orbit of delivery, which contributes to the heat of re-entry.

The rocket was able to put the EUTELSAT 117 West B and ABS-2A into geostationary transfer orbit, the deploy region ideal for communication and meteorological satellites. The satellites were owned by private communications companies, which currently comprise the bulk of SpaceX clientele.

A CNN report confirms Wednesday's launch was SpaceX's second successful delivery of dual satellites, also the Falcon 9's 26th successful launch. Another Falcon rocket delivered the satellites Eutelsat 115 West B and ABS-3A into orbit March 2015.

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