SpaceX rocket landing attempt: Close again, but no cigar

It’s “close again, but no cigar” for SpaceX in its latest ambitious attempt to land a booster rocket on a floating platform off the coast of Florida.

“Ascent successful. Dragon enroute to Space Station. Rocket landed on droneship, but too hard for survival,” tweeted SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Tuesday, shortly after the Falcon 9 rocket launched the Dragon spacecraft.

“Looks like Falcon landed fine, but excess lateral velocity caused it to tip over post landing,” he added, in a subsequent tweet.

Musk maintains that recovering and reusing rockets is essential for bringing down launch costs and speeding up operations.

This was the company's third attempt to fly a first-stage booster to a platform floating 200 miles off Florida's east coast and land it vertically. The January effort ended in flames when the booster tumbled off the platform; February's attempt was nixed because of rough seas.

The platform, dubbed "Just Read the Instructions," had been enhanced to hold its position better. On Monday, Musk tweeted that the odds of the rocket landing successfully were less than 50%.

"What SpaceX is attempting is incredibly hard," Chris Carberry, executive director of Explore Mars, a non-profit organization which aims to advance the goal of sending humans to Mars, told "However, it appears that they almost succeeded this time."

Carberry added that if SpaceX is able to reliably land the first stage of Falcon 9, it will be a major step toward rocket reusability and cost reduction, but could also advance technologies that could be applicable to landing vehicles on planets such as Mars.

The unmanned Dragon spacecraft is carrying more than 4,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station, including an Espresso machine for Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. Dragon will reach the International Space Station Friday.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

The Associated Press contributed to this report.