SpaceX has lost one of its rockets after a Falcon 9 booster missed the floating landing pad.
The reusable rocket successfully launched another batch of Starlink satellites but crashed into the sea, and it is not clear if it will be able to be launched again.
It is the first time a Falcon 9 rocket has failed to land on one of the platforms since 2016, although the company has lost quite a few rockets since then as well – sometimes on purpose.
SpaceX’s first successful landing on what it calls the droneships took place in April 2016 after a number of unsuccessful trials ending in what the engineers jokingly referred to as a “rapid unscheduled disassembly”.
It is not yet clear what caused the crash on Monday. SpaceX’s video of the attempted landing didn’t even show the rocket within the same shot as the landing platform.
“We clearly did not make the landing this time,” said one of the company’s engineers, Lauren Lyons, but the launch itself of 60 satellites did mark the 80th successful flight for the Falcon 9 range of rockets.
SpaceX’s satellite constellation, known as Starlink, is intended to ultimately provide broadband coverage across the globe.
Elon Musk, the company’s founder and chief executive, was however forced to deny claims that the fleet of 12,000 satellites would ruin the night sky for astronomers last year.
However, onlookers are expressing concern about the impact the satellites would have on their work.
A video captured by Dutch astronomer Dr Marco Langbroek shows the satellites in orbit, alongside Dr Langbroek’s claim that – contrary to Mr Musk’s assertions – during the summertime the satellites would be visible well south of the Arctic Circle.
Hate to disagree with @elonmusk, but: that is true in wintertime, but not in summertime. Then, with altitudes at 550 km, they are visible throughout the night at middle latitudes like Europe. Just like they were last night:https://t.co/xChLDH32uk
— Dr Marco Langbroek (@Marco_Langbroek) May 25, 2019
Speaking to The Guardian, astrophysicist Nestor Espinoza said: “It’s basically a private company staining our sky for everyone. It’s interesting that there’s no consensus about it. No one asked us.”
Explaining what he plans to do with the revenue, Mr Musk said: “We think this is a key stepping stone on the way towards establishing a self-sustaining city on Mars and a base on the moon.”
There are a number of satellite constellation projects in development, although concerns have been raised both about the space for these constellations orbiting around the Earth and their cost efficiency.
Other constellation projects are being developed by companies such as Amazon, OneWeb, Kepler, Telesat, and Leosat.
OneWeb launched satellites last February, while LeoSat Enterprises and Canada’s Telesat are also intending to create data networks from satellite constellations.
Each constellation will use tiny satellites positioned closer to Earth than more traditional communications satellites.