The first launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket went off without a hitch on Tuesday — almost, anyway.
The Falcon Heavy launched and deployed its payload, a cherry red Tesla roadster, into space successfully. Two of its three nine-engine cores, the Falcon Heavy’s side boosters, also returned to Earth, landing nearly simultaneously in a brilliant display of aeronautical precision:
But the Falcon Heavy’s center booster wasn’t so fortunate. While many observers, including SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk and President Donald Trump, were celebrating SpaceX’s successful Falcon Heavy launch, the middle core missed the drone ship where it was supposed to land, The Verge reports.
In order to land successfully on SpaceX’s drone ship, the Falcon Heavy’s main core needed three engines to light, slowing it down and helping it aim successfully. But only one of them did so, causing the core to miss the ship by about 300 feet. The main core hit the water at about 300 miles per hour, damaging the drone ship and covering the deck with shrapnel, Musk said in a press call following the Falcon Heavy launch.
SpaceX attempts to land its rockets back on earth so they can be reused later, cutting down on overall costs. But even if the Falcon Heavy’s main core didn’t successfully return to terra firma, the mission was still a success, allowing Musk’s Tesla Roadster to find its new home in space.