Updated on January 18 at 2:13 p.m. EST
If at first you don’t succeed at landing a rocket on a ship floating in the middle of the ocean, try, try, try again.
That’s the plan for SpaceX, which on Sunday afternoon narrowly missed a full touchdown of its Falcon 9 on an ocean platform in the Pacific Ocean on its return trip from delivering a satellite to space earlier in the day.
“Definitely harder to land on a ship,” tweeted Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of the private spaceflight company. “Similar to an aircraft carrier vs land: much smaller target area, that’s also translating & rotating.”
Musk said that the Falcon 9 successfully slowed down enough to make a solid landing, but one of the rocket’s legs failed to lock, leading the spacecraft to tip over and explode:
SpaceX’s last two attempts at such ocean landings also ended with the rockets exploding.
The company made aerospace history last month, when it launched a Falcon 9 rocket into space and brought it back to Earth in one piece, landing it upright. But that touchdown happened on a launch pad, and not on what is effectively a giant, flat buoy.