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In rare misstep, SpaceX loses Falcon 9 during landing attempt

Published Feb 17th, 2020 5:54PM EST
spacex launch
Image: Terry Renna/AP/REX/Shutterstock

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In its continued efforts to create a global communications network with its Starlink satellites, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket today, delivering another 60 of the spacecraft into Earth orbit. It was a relatively routine mission for the company and its attempt to land its Falcon 9 booster was expected to go smoothly. It did not, in fact, go smoothly.

As it has done many times before, SpaceX’s droneship was expected to catch the booster after it delivered the payload. Cameras aboard the droneship did not show the rocket making its soft landing. In fact, it didn’t show the rocket at all.

Unfortunately for SpaceX and the viewers watching the live stream of the launch and attempted landing, the rocket missed the droneship entirely. According to SpaceX, the booster made a “soft landing” nearby, and we assume it was eventually recovered.

This is particularly heartbreaking for SpaceX since, as Ars Technica points out, a successful landing on the droneship would have been the 50th such Falcon 9 recovery for the company. Instead, that celebration will have to be put on hold for a while, and we’ll wait to hear from SpaceX what might have caused this particular misstep.

Shortcomings and launch accidents are nothing new to SpaceX. The company has made a habit of not only acknowledging when it comes up short, but actually celebrating its failures. SpaceX even took it upon itself to produce an entire blooper reel showcasing its failures.

This particular Falcon 9 landing miss isn’t a big deal for SpaceX in the grand scheme of things, but the fact that the company now sees its streak of successful landings come to an end is a bit of a bummer.