Science·Video

Watch SpaceX's rocket explode after almost landing successfully

SpaceX's second attempt to land a large reusable rocket on a small floating barge starts off looking hopeful and impressive, but ends dramatically.

Rocket 'landed fine' on floating platform, but tipped over after touchdown

SpaceX has released a video of the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket touching down on a floating platform during an attempted landing before toppling over and exploding.

It was the company's unsuccessful second attempt to land the rocket in an effort to develop a booster rocket that can be reused on future space missions.

During Tuesday's launch, the rocket successfully sent an unmanned Dragon cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station before separating and attempting to land on an unmanned barge. The barge, described by SpaceX as "an autonomous spaceport drone ship" was named "Just Read the Instructions" and floated about 322 kilometres off the coast of Jacksonville, Fla.

The barge called 'Just Read the Instructions' was floating about 322 kilometres off the coast of Jacksonville, Fla., when the rocket came in for a landing. (SpaceX)

Initially, SpaceX posted a seconds-long video on its Twitter account that shows the rocket firing and adjusting its angle as it approaches the platform. It rotates slightly counterclockwise to touch down on the centre of the platform in a cloud of smoke, but appears to keep rotating a little too far, leaning to the left as the video ends.

A longer version on YouTube shows the explosion that follows. Later, an unofficial version viewed from the barge was posted online.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the rocket "landed fine, but excess lateral velocity cause it to tip over post landing."

SpaceX's previous attempt in January ended in a dramatic explosion after it ran out of hydraulic fluid for its steering fins and crashed into the platform.

The company will make a third landing attempt during a space station resupply mission targeted for June.

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