SpaceX launches cargo capsule, fails to nail rocket landing

SpaceX's Rough Landing Isn't a Total Failure

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- SpaceX launched a shipment of groceries to the International Space Station on Tuesday, including the first espresso maker bound for orbit. But the company's third attempt to land the leftover booster on an ocean platform failed.

SpaceX chief Elon Musk wrote via Twitter that the first-stage booster rocket landed but then tipped over. He wants to reuse the rockets rather than discard them in the ocean to reduce launch costs.

Despite improvements to the booster and landing platform, Musk still had predicted a less than 50 percent chance of success for the latest effort. He and other company officials repeatedly stressed that the landing test was secondary to getting the Dragon capsule into orbit.

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SpaceX launch from Tuesday, April 14, 2015 (used in article #21172268)
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Indeed, NASA congratulated SpaceX on Tuesday's "picture-perfect" launch, delayed a day by stormy weather. Images beamed down from orbit showed the protective covering popping off the Dragon and the two solar wings unfolding, like a newborn chick.

The supply ship holds more than 4,000 pounds of food, science experiments and equipment for the six space station astronauts. At liftoff time, the orbiting lab was soaring over Australia. The delivery should arrive Friday.

"We watched live!" Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti said in a tweet. "Amazing to think that in 3 days #Dragon will be knocking on our door."

The specially designed espresso machine is for Cristoforetti, who has been stuck with American instant coffee since she arrived at the space station in November. The Italians in charge of the project hope to revolutionize coffee-drinking in space.

SpaceX, meanwhile, hopes to transform the rocket business by eventually landing the first-stage booster on a platform floating a few hundred miles off Florida's northeastern coast, near Jacksonville.

The booster was programmed, following separation 2 1/2 minutes after liftoff, to flip around and fly to the platform dubbed "Just Read the Instructions."

The goal, a vertical touchdown, eluded Musk in January and February. The steering system ran out of hydraulic fluid on the first try, and the booster slammed into the platform and exploded. Rough seas scrapped the second shot. Improvements to both the booster and platform followed, but apparently were not enough.

This was the second launch attempt for this mission, SpaceX's seventh supply run for NASA.

The Dragon -- the only supply ship capable of returning items intact -- will remain at the space station until around May 21.

NASA is eager to get the Dragon's contents to the space station. The agency still has a month-or-two backlog for food and equipment in the wake of the October loss of an Orbital Sciences Corp. cargo carrier. The unmanned rocket exploded at liftoff.

The espresso maker was among the items delayed by the accident. It should have arrived in January, two months after Cristoforetti moved into the space station. With her departure coming up in just one month, she won't have much time to waste unpacking the Dragon and cranking out the espresso. Twenty coffee packets are included.

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SpaceX Dragon v2
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SpaceX launches cargo capsule, fails to nail rocket landing
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk attends a press conference to unveil SpaceX's new seven-seat Dragon V2 spacecraft, in Hawthorne, California on May 29, 2014. The private spaceflight companys new seven-seat Dragon V2 will ferry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk (R) unveils SpaceX's new seven-seat Dragon V2 spacecraft, at a press conference in Hawthorne, California, May 29, 2014. The private spaceflight companys new manned space capsule will ferry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Retired NASA astronaut and current SpaceX engineer Garrett Reisman stands inside SpaceX's new seven-seat Dragon V2 spacecraft, at a press conference to unveil the new spaceship, in Hawthorne, California, May 29, 2014. The private spaceflight companys new manned space capsule will ferry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
SpaceX's new seven-seat Dragon V2 spacecraft is seen at a press conference to unveil the new spaceship, in Hawthorne, California, May 29, 2014. The private spaceflight companys new manned space capsule will ferry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
SpaceX's new seven-seat Dragon V2 spacecraft (L) is seen at a press conference to unveil the new spaceship, in Hawthorne, California, May 29, 2014. The private spaceflight companys new manned space capsule will ferry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
The entry hatch of SpaceX's new seven-seat Dragon V2 spacecraft is seen at a press conference to unveil the new spaceship, in Hawthorne, California on May 29, 2014. The private spaceflight companys new manned space capsule will ferry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveils SpaceX's new seven-seat Dragon V2 spacecraft, in Hawthorne, California on May 29, 2014. The private spaceflight companys new manned space capsule will ferry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk introduces SpaceX's Dragon V2 spacecraft, the companys next generation version of the Dragon ship designed to carry astronauts into space, at a press conference in Hawthorne, California, May 29, 2014. The private spaceflight companys unmanned Dragon spacecraft has been delivering cargo to the International Space Station three times since 2012. The new Dragon V2 will ferry NASA astronauts to and from the space station. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE-CA-MAY 29: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveils the company's new manned spacecraft, The Dragon V2, designed to carry astronauts into space during a news conference on May 29, 2014, in Hawthorne, California. The private spaceflight company has been flying unmanned capsules to the International Space Station delivering cargo for the past two years. The Dragon V2 manned spacecraft will ferry up to seven astronauts to low-Earth orbit. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk introduces SpaceX's Dragon V2 spacecraft, the companys next generation version of the Dragon ship designed to carry astronauts into space, at a press conference in Hawthorne, California, May 29, 2014. The private spaceflight companys unmanned Dragon spacecraft has been delivering cargo to the International Space Station three times since 2012. The new Dragon V2 will ferry NASA astronauts to and from the space station. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE-CA-MAY 29: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveils the company's new manned spacecraft, The Dragon V2, designed to carry astronauts into space during a news conference on May 29, 2014, in Hawthorne, California. The private spaceflight company has been flying unmanned capsules to the International Space Station delivering cargo for the past two years. The Dragon V2 will ferry up to seven astronauts to low-Earth orbit. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE-CA-MAY 29: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveils the company's new manned spacecraft, The Dragon V2, designed to carry astronauts into space during a news conference on May 29, 2014, in Hawthorne, California. The private spaceflight company has been flying unmanned capsules to the International Space Station delivering cargo for the past two years. The Dragon V2 manned spacecraft will ferry up to seven astronauts to low-Earth orbit. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE-CA-MAY 29: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveils the company's new manned spacecraft, The Dragon V2 (L) designed to carry astronauts into space with the Dragon unmanned spacecraft suspended in air during a news conference on May 29, 2014, in Hawthorne, California. The private spaceflight company has been flying unmanned capsules to the International Space Station delivering cargo for the past two years. The Dragon V2 manned spacecraft will ferry up to seven astronauts to low-Earth orbit. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE-CA-MAY 29: A view of inside the Dragon V2 manned capsule designed to carry astronauts after it was unveiled by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk during a news conference on May 29, 2014, in Hawthorne, California. The private spaceflight company has been flying unmanned capsules to the Space Station delivering cargo for the past two years. The Dragon V2 manned spacecraft will ferry up to seven astronauts to low-Earth orbit. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE-CA-MAY 29: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk speaks with invited guests inside the manned capsule Dragon V2 after unveiling it at the company's headquarters on May 29, 2014, in Hawthorne, California. The private spaceflight company has been flying unmanned capsules to the Space Station delivering cargo for the past two years. The Dragon V2 manned spacecraft will ferry up to seven astronauts to low-Earth orbit. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk watches a video animation of SpaceX's new Dragon V2 spacecraft, at a press conference to introduced the new manned space capsule in Hawthorne, California on May 29, 2014. The private spaceflight companys unmanned Dragon spacecraft new seven-seat Dragon V2 will ferry NASA astronauts to and from the space station. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
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