Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX waited out high winds and worked through a series of technical issues to send its 22nd Falcon 9 rocket soaring into space on Friday to deliver a communications satellites into orbit.
After four delays, the Falcon 9, carrying the SES-9 communications satellite, blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 6:35 p.m. ET.
Two and a half minutes later, the first-stage of the rocket separated, turned around and headed back toward a platform floating in the Atlantic Ocean.
Musk said that, as expected, the returning first-stage of the Falcon 9 rocket flying Friday made a hard landing on the ocean platform stationed off the coast of Florida. "Next flight has a good chance," Musk posted on Twitter.
Before launch, SpaceX downplayed the chance the first-stage would land intact, due to the higher speed and extra fuel required to boost the six-ton SES-9 satellite toward its intended orbit more than 24,000 miles above Earth.
SpaceX successfully landed a Falcon rocket first-stage on a landing pad at Cape Canaveral in December. The rocket flying on Friday was going too fast to attempt a return to land, so SpaceX dispatched one of its sea platforms instead.
Three previous attempts to land in the ocean have failed. SpaceX came close to nailing the landing during its last try in January, but after touching down one of the rocket’s stabilizing landing legs failed to latch and the rocket fell over and exploded.
SpaceX is looking to fly more than 12 Falcon rockets this year, including the first flight of its 27-engine Falcon Heavy booster.