A SpaceX commentator called it a "bummer", but noted it was secondary to the Falcon 9 rocket's main mission of getting the Dragon capsule to orbit. Some landing systems are not redundant, as landing is considered ground safety critical, but not mission critical.
The live feed from the rocket cut away on the SpaceX webcast, but video from people in the media area at the cape showed the Falcon 9 appearing to regain control before making an unplanned landing in the water rather than ashore at the landing area. The stage, at one point spinning rapidly, ended up touching down on the surface of the ocean a few kilometers offshore. The horizon is vertical, at right; the waffle-iron-looking things are two of the booster's "grid fins". The boosters also "know" to avoid buildings even if they do somehow stray onto a non-targeted patch of land.
"So, public safety was well-protected here", Koenigsmann said.
Altogether, the company has recovered 32 boosters following liftoff - 33 once this one is towed back, said Hans Koenigsmann, a SpaceX vice-president. "I think we need to actually investigate that first and figure out what actually was wrong and what is the smartest solution". Today's SpaceX launch was previously postponed after mould was found on food bars in the cargo hold. The early Falcon 9 rocket stages proved that the model was viable, but the Block 5 is capable of being used up to 100 times before finally needing to be disposed of. "We have enough time between now and then to bring in corrective actions and to make sure that we land that booster safely".
Experiments onboard the SpaceX Dragon capsule include studies on wound healing in space, as well as two studies by students inspired by Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy" will also launch to the orbiting laboratory. It was the company's first missed ground landing, although it has overshot floating barges plenty of times in the past, a tougher feat to pull off. The company's relationship with NASA and partnership for manned space flights in the near future will be a major test.
NASA requires SpaceX to perform at least seven launches with the redesigned COPVs before the agency will allow its astronauts to fly on the vehicle. Koenigsmann said he believed this was the second launch to use the redesigned COPVs, after the launch of the Es'hail-2 communications satellite November 15.