SpaceX’s heftiest rocket’s new center core booster crashed into the ocean as it attempted to land on the platform Tuesday following what was described by CEO Elon Musk as the company’s “most difficult launch.”
The Falcon Heavy was launched along with 24 research satellites from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. It was the third flight for a Falcon Heavy rocket, but the first ordered by the military. SpaceX said the satellites needed to be placed in three different orbits, requiring multiple upper-stage engine firings. It will take several hours to release them all.
Both side boosters landed back at Cape Canaveral several minutes after liftoff. The boosters also landed back following its launch in April. However, the new center core booster crashed into the ocean and appeared to explode after missing the platform, a development which was not unexpected for the difficult mission, SpaceX noted.
Musk tweeted about the core booster saying, “Center core RUD. It was a long shot.”
The Verge reported that SpaceX has “not successfully recovered a center core from a Falcon Heavy launch.”
NASA signed up for a spot on the rocket, along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Air Force Research Laboratory and Planetary Society and Celestis Inc., which offers memorial flights into space. The launch was expected to provide data to certify the Falcon Heavy and reused boosters for future national security launches.
The Air Force Research Laboratory had space weather experiments aboard, while NOAA had six small atmospheric experimental satellites for weather forecasting.
The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket in use today. Each first-stage booster has nine engines, for a total of 27 firing simultaneously at liftoff from NASA's Kennedy Space Center.
The first Falcon Heavy launch was in February 2018. That test flight put SpaceX founder Musk's red Tesla convertible into an orbit stretching past Mars.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.