Thursday's launch, which successfully lofted the Arabsat-6A communications satellite, was the second ever for the Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket operating today.
"Over the weekend, due to rough sea conditions, SpaceX's recovery team was unable to secure the center core booster for its return trip to Port Canaveral", SpaceX representatives said in an emailed statement. Unable to remain upright, the rocket tipped over and fell into the ocean.
The Falcon 9 Heavy lifting off from the historic Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre."While we had hoped to bring the booster back intact, the safety of our team always takes precedence. We do not expect future missions to be impacted".More news: Climate change protesters block roads in London
The "attachment fixtures are different" for Falcon 9 boosters, compared to what is used for a modified Falcon Heavy core, Musk said. This was the first time that SpaceX was successful in landing all three of the rocket cores. This is the first time the company has lost a landed stage on the way back to port.
Thursday's flight was only the second of a Falcon Heavy rocket and the first with a paying customer's cargo aboard.
After liftoff, CEO Elon Musk confirmed that the rocket's fairing halves - or nose cone that protects the spacecraft - were recovered and will be used for an internal mission known as "Starlink" later this year.
The total cost of one of its Falcon 9 launches is estimated to reach £44 million ($61m), while each of its larger Falcon Heavy flights costs £65 million ($90m).More news: Oil rig workers rescue exhausted dog found swimming off Thailand’s coast
The two side boosters will be reused on the next Falcon Heavy launch, of the Air Force's Space Test Program (STP) 2 mission, carrying a number of technology demonstration satellites. This anomaly also serves as a bit of an abrupt reminder of just how hard the safe landing and recovery of giant, orbital-class rocket boosters really is.
SpaceX is now testing a system to recover the fairings of its Falcon 9 rockets.
During its first Falcon Heavy launch in February 2018, the firm landed two of the firms side boosters simultaneously on separate launchpads.More news: Avs, MacKinnon rally to beat Flames in OT
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