SpaceX suffers 'bummer' landing as rocket's first-stage booster crashes on re-entry

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This mission also served as the first time SpaceX launched the same booster a third time.

SpaceX successfully launched ISS cargo from Cape Canaveral in Florida this afternoon, and as it has 26 times in the past, planned to land its Falcon 9 rocket for reuse. Dragon got up and out as planned, fulfilling the day's primary mission objective.

But the tall portion of the rocket missed its goal of securing an upright landing on the solid ground at Cape Canaveral's Landing Zone 1.

In what has become a rare sight, the Falcon 9 vertical on the Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station awaiting blast off is a new rocket.

SpaceX quickly cut the live feed from the rocket as it began to spin out of control.

"There was some malfunction with the grid fins", Koenigsmann said, but refrained from speculating further as to the causes of the landing anomaly.

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The Dragon cargo capsule is carrying an in-space refueling experiment, a new carbon-monitoring sensor for the station, and supplies for the six astronauts aboard the orbiting lab, three of whom just arrived after launching aboard a Russian rocket.

SpaceX CEO and lead designer Elon Musk tweeted that the reusable booster was undamaged and appeared to be transmitting data.

Hypersonic grid fins help the booster steer its way back for a precision touchdown. That Falcon 9, he noted, won't attempt a landing, since it needs the booster performance that would be reserved for a landing to carry out the mission. In the future, Musk has stated that more redundant systems may be implemented to prevent such a failure from happening again.

"Pump is single string. Given this event, we will likely add a backup pump & lines", he tweeted. A recovery team was then dispatched to pull the first stage out of the water. The stage, at one point spinning rapidly, ended up touching down on the surface of the ocean a few kilometers offshore. The boosters also "know" to avoid buildings even if they do somehow stray onto a non-targeted patch of land. The second stage of the Falcon 9 is still on its way to the ISS and is expected to reach its destination on December 8.

"So, public safety was well-protected here", Koenigsmann said. SpaceX's webcast recap can be viewed below. Until today, the company's most recent landing failure happened in summer 2016.

SpaceX clearly has its core business in good shape, which is impressive since it's literally rocket science, but there are still big questions moving forward.

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