An unmanned SpaceX rocket blasted off from Florida on Tuesday and sent a cargo ship on its way to the International Space Station, then flipped around and unsuccessfully attempted a soft landing on a platform in the ocean.
“Rocket landed on droneship, but too hard for survival,” SpaceX founder and Chief Executive Elon Musk posted on Twitter.
The 208-foot tall Falcon 9 rocket, carrying a Dragon capsule, thundered off its seaside launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 4:10 pm EDT.
After sending the capsule on its way to orbit, the rocket’s first stage flipped around, fired engines to guide its descent, deployed steering fins and landing legs and touched down hard on the customized barge stationed about 200 miles off the coast of Jacksonville, Fla.
During a previous landing attempt in January, the rocket ran out of hydraulic fluid for its steering fins, causing it to crash into the platform. A second attempt in February was called off because of high seas, but the rocket successfully ran through its pre-programmed landing sequence and hovered vertically above the waves before splashing down and breaking apart.
The booster’s flyback, years in the making, is another step in the company’s quest to develop rockets that can be refurbished and reflown, potentially slashing launch costs.
The primary purpose of Tuesday’s launch was to deliver more than 4,300 pounds of food, clothing, equipment — including an Italian-made espresso machine — and science experiments to the station, a $100 billion research laboratory about 260 miles above Earth.
SpaceX is one of two companies hired by NASA to fly cargo to the station following the retirement of the space shuttles. In addition to a recently extended 15-flight NASA cargo delivery contract, worth more than $2 billion, SpaceX is working on a passenger version of the Dragon capsule and has dozens of contracts to deliver commercial communications satellites into orbit.
It hopes to be certified to fly U.S. military payloads by June.
(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Dan Grebler)
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.