Space transport services company SpaceX is optimistic about landing a rocket and reusing it later, a goal that could have significant implications in the space industry, particularly in terms of operational costs. Elon Musk's company, nevertheless, failed again in its third attempt to land its Falcon 9 rocket on a floating platform after it blasted off on Tuesday.
Musk has now given the public an explanation as to why the latest attempt had failed. On Saturday, the 43-year-old billionaire tweeted the reason behind the failure. He said that although the rocket landed fine, excess lateral velocity had caused it to top over after landing.
"Cause of hard rocket landing confirmed as due to slower than expected throttle valve response," Musk tweeted.
Cause of hard rocket landing confirmed as due to slower than expected throttle valve response. Next attempt in 2 months.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 18, 2015
Ascent successful. Dragon enroute to Space Station. Rocket landed on droneship, but too hard for survival. — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 14, 2015
In a video of the crash, the rocket can be seen descending toward its target platform rocking back and forth at times before it extended its legs and settled on the platform. A sudden lateral move, however, occurred and the rocket fell over the side and exploded on impact.
Since January, SpaceX has already been attempting to land a rocket on a platform thrice. The first attempt failed as the Falcon 9 rocket hit the platform then went out of control. For the second attempt, which was made a month later, the rocket came close to its target, but it hit the platform a few yards away from the drone's surface. Although the rocket came close in the latest attempt, it tipped over and exploded when it hit the target too hard.
Musk believes that if SpaceX becomes successful with its aim of reusing a rocket, the company could revolutionize the space industry. Reusing rockets—instead of dumping them into the sea—could make spaceflight more cost effective and even common. SpaceX estimates that this could help the company save as much as $54 million per flight, a significant amount of money.
Despite having three failed attempts, the company continues to be optimistic that it will be able to land a rocket and reuse it again. SpaceX will make another attempt in two months as SpaceX is set to have another cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in June.
SpaceX may have failed to land the rocket, but the primary and other half of the mission, which is to deliver cargo to ISS aboard the Dragon capsule, went smoothly as planned.