SpaceX: Odds of Successful Falcon 9 Rocket Landing on Barge Are 'Uncertain'

by Keith Wagstaff /  / Updated 
Image: SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with Dragon lifts off
The unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with Dragon lifts off from launch pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida April 14, 2015.SCOTT AUDETTE / Reuters

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SpaceX is hoping the third time is a charm when it comes to sticking a landing.

The first two attempts to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship ended in spectacular explosions. On Thursday, SpaceX seemed optimistic about its next attempt, scheduled for Sunday, calling the odds of success "uncertain" — possibly an upgrade from the 50/50 chance SpaceX founder Elon Musk gave the previous mission.

Related: SpaceX Launches Cargo Into Orbit, Then Falcon 9 Rocket Hits the Deck

While "uncertain" might not sound great, SpaceX wrote that it had identified and taken steps to prevent the sources of the previous two failures: a lack of hydraulic fluid and a non-responsive throttle valve.

The company also shared previously unreleased footage of the second crash on April 14. The first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket almost nailed the landing on the drone ship "Just Read the Instructions" in the Atlantic Ocean, near the Florida coast, before it tipped over and exploded.

On Sunday, SpaceX will try again with a new drone ship named "Of Course I Still Love You." The goal, SpaceX wrote, was not to "just to produce cool videos" but to "radically reduce the cost of accessing space by producing a fully and rapidly reusable rocket system."

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket will first launch a Dragon spacecraft carrying more than 4,000 pounds of supplies destined for the International Space Station. The launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida is the company's seventh resupply mission under a commercial contract with NASA.

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