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SpaceX's latest attempt to land a rocket upright on a platform in the Pacific Ocean failed in a spectacular fashion Sunday.
OUT OF THIS WORLD | Earth, Space And The Stuff In Between - a daily journey through weather, space and science with meteorologist/science writer Scott Sutherland

SpaceX rocket makes perfect barge landing, then topples over


Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Sunday, January 17, 2016, 10:51 PM -

So close! After successfully launching a satellite into space Sunday, SpaceX's near-perfect landing of their rocket on a drone barge at sea was spoiled when the booster toppled upon touchdown.

Despite the fog that persisted across the Vandenberg Air Force Base launch facility during Sunday's SpaceX launch, their Falcon 9 rocket successfully lifted off at 1:42 p.m. EST, Sunday, January 17, carrying the latest NOAA/NASA/Eumetsat/CNES ocean-observing satellite into orbit.

Watch a replay of the launch via the SpaceX video embedded above.

Everything went smooth and by the numbers for the launch and insertion of the new Jason-3 satellite into a polar orbit around the Earth. When the Falcon 9 first stage returned to land on SpaceX's "Just Follow the Instructions" autonomous landing barge, however, all did not go as planned.


Based on Musk's social media reports, the rocket was on target and came in for a smooth, soft touchdown. The cause of the crash was a failure in one of the "leg lockouts" which failed to latch, and thus caused the rocket to tip over once it cut engines and settled onto the deck.

The primary mission of this launch, though, was a complete success, and the Jason-3 mission is now in orbit, ready to return its findings to scientists at NOAA and other agencies.

According to SpaceX:

Jason-3 is the newest satellite in a series designed to maintain long-term satellite altimetry observations of global sea surface height. These data provide critical ocean information that forecasters need to predict devastating hurricanes and severe weather before they arrive onshore. Over the long term, Jason-3 will help track global sea level rise, an increasing threat to the resilience of coastal communities and to the health of our environment.
Jason-3’s highly accurate altimetry measurements will be used for a variety of scientific, commercial and operational applications, including:
• Hurricane intensity forecasting
• Surface wave forecasting for offshore operators
• Forecasting tides and currents for commercial shipping and ship routing
• Coastal forecasting for response to environmental problems like oil spills and harmful algal blooms
• Coastal modeling crucial for marine mammal and coral reef research
• El Niño and La Niña forecasting
Jason-3 is the fourth mission in a U.S.-European series of satellite missions that measure the height of the ocean surface. The mission will extend the time series of ocean surface topography measurements (the hills and valleys of the ocean surface) begun by the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite mission in 1992 and continuing through Jason-1 (launched in 2001) and the currently operating OSTM/Jason-2 (launched in 2008) missions. These measurements provide scientists with critical information about circulation patterns in the ocean and about both global and regional changes in sea level and the climate implications of a warming world.


Watch Below: The space stories from 2015 that you should keep watching in 2016.

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