Following a successful rocket landing last month on land, Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s attempt to land a rocket on a floating barge failed on Sunday.

SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk said one of the rocket’s landing legs failed to latch and lock properly, which caused the Falcon 9 booster to tip over and explode. Prior to the failed landing attempt, the mission successfully launched the Jason-3

weather satellite to low-earth orbit for the U.S. National Oceanic and

Atmospheric Administration.

SpaceX’s goal of landing a rocket on a floating barge is a safety precaution for future boosters that may return to earth at a higher speed, possibly coming from a lunar mission or trip to Mars. The company’s successful ground landing last month was heralded as a breakthrough because reuseable rockets would drastically bring down the cost of space launches.

Yet, landing on a floating barge or ship is much more difficult than landing on solid ground, noted Musk on Twitter.

“Definitely harder to land on a ship. Similar to an aircraft carrier vs land: much smaller target area, that's also translating & rotating,” he tweeted. “However, that was not what prevented it being good. Touchdown speed was ok, but a leg lockout didn't latch, so it tipped over after landing.”

Technology reporter Garrett Reim can be reached at greim@labusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @garrettreim for the latest in L.A. tech news.

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