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    SpaceX booster rocket in berth.

    SpaceX Test Landing Fails in Latest Private Space Mission Setback

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    An unmanned rocket loaded with supplies for the International Space Station launched just fine on Saturday as in on its way to the ISS, but the booster rocket didn’t quite make it back to a platform in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast.

    SpaceRaceTop Atlantic Coast At Night
    © Flickr / NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center
    “Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time," Elon Musk, founder and CEO of the rocket company SpaceX, said on Twitter.

    Space Exploration Technologies, as the company’s officially known, has been working to develop rockets that can easily go back and forth in space, which would help bring down costs of space travel. 

    NASA used to recover and reuse the space shuttle’s two rocket boosters, which would land in the ocean tied to parachutes, but the process was time consuming and expensive. 

    Musk, who is also CEO of the pioneering electric car company Tesla, said he was confident SpaceX would be able to develop reusable rockets. The problem with the one on Saturday, he wrote on Twitter, was that it ran out of steering fuel. But, he said, that won’t be the case with the next one. 

    Maksim Suraev and Alexander Samokutyaev during the 40th spacewalk
    instagram.com/roscosmosofficial/Elena Serova
    “Upcoming flight already has 50 percent more hydraulic fluid, so should have plenty of margin for landing attempt next month,” he said.

    The SpaceX rocket has four landing “legs” and fins that act as wings. It landed on target, but broke into pieces. 

    SpaceX is one of two companies that NASA contracted to fly supplies to the ISS, but the other company, Orbital Sciences Corporation, has not flown since one of its rockets exploded last October just minutes after takeoff. 

    SpaceX has a nearly $2 billion contract with NASA, and Saturday’s launch was the fifth of 12. 

    In the meantime, a company founded by Virgin Atlantic mogul Richard Branson, says it will continue with its quest to send tourists into space, even after its SpaceShipTwo crashed in the Mojave Desert in California last fall, killing one of the pilots and injuring the other. Branson wants to take tourists into space for $250,000, and 700 have signed up so far, including several celebrities. 

    The company says only 20 have asked for refunds since the fatal crash. 

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