Freeze frame of the Falcon 9 just before it burst into flame after falling over

SpaceX bungles Falcon 9 rocket ocean landing

SpaceX has botched the landing of its Falcon 9 rocket, which blew up shortly after arriving on a platform in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Although the rocket successfully touched down on the craft, one of its landing legs failed to latch into position which caused it to tip over.

“Touchdown speed was OK, but a leg lockout didn't latch, so it tipped over after landing,” SpaceX founder and Chief Executive Elon Musk wrote on Twitter.

The company has already tried to achieve such a feat on two separate occasions, but has failed both times.

The ability to land at sea would give the company flexibility to recover rockets used on more demanding missions, such as launching heavy satellites, when boosters do not have enough fuel left to reach land.

Despite the failure of the landing gear, Sunday's launch was largely considered a success because it achieved its primary goal to put the US and European-owned Jason-3 satellite into orbit 1,336km above the planet.

The 550kg spacecraft is the fourth in a series of ocean-monitoring satellites taking centre stage in monitoring Earth's climate.

"More than 90 per cent of all the heat being trapped in the Earth's system... is actually going into the ocean," said Laury Miller, Jason-3 lead scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "This makes the ocean perhaps the biggest player in the climate change story."

In December, SpaceX successfully returned its upgraded Falcon 9 to flight after an explosion earlier in the year and demonstrated the industry's first successful rocket landing during a commercial mission.

SpaceX also ran tests over the weekend on the rocket that landed safely last month, which touched down without any mishaps.

Musk said that once engine 9 was fired up again, it "showed some thrust fluctuations" that were unanticipated and engineers are currently trying to figure out what is causing the issue.

For a video of the rocket's failed ocean landing, please click here.

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