VIDEO: SpaceX rocket explodes on ocean landing

Posted at 6:42 AM, Jan 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-18 06:49:10-05

SpaceX says its Falcon 9 rocket toppled over and exploded into pieces upon landing on a floating ocean barge west of San Diego because one of its support legs didn't lock as planned.

The California company said on Twitter Sunday that data now show that the rocket's first stage landed softly within 1.3 meters of the center of the 300-by-170 foot landing pad.


A video posted by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on


Founder Elon Musk tweeted that the rocket's speed at touchdown was okay, "but a leg lockout didn't latch, so it tipped over after landing." He said the "root cause may have been ice buildup due to condensation from heavy fog at liftoff."

The failed landing was a setback for the Hawthorne, California, company's plan to reduce launch costs by reusing rockets rather than having them fall into the ocean.

The rocket successfully delivered an ocean-monitoring satellite into orbit after launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Los Angeles.

NASA says the U.S.-European Jason-3 satellite is in orbit and "ready for science operations."