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.
Rough weather at sea toppled one of the three boosters used during the launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket last week.
But the central booster didn't complete its homeward journey intact: Rough seas claimed that first stage during the drone ship's voyage back to shore, SpaceX said today (April 15).
"Over the weekend, due to rough sea conditions, SpaceX's recovery team was unable to secure the centre core booster for its return trip to Port Canaveral", SpaceX told The Verge in a statement. Unable to remain upright, the rocket tipped over and fell into the ocean. "While we had hoped to bring the booster back intact, the safety of our team always takes precedence", Gleeson said. "We do not expect future missions to be impacted".
The sad loss of another Falcon Heavy center booster has once again preventing SpaceX recovery engineers from being able to fully analyze the unique rocket's custom side booster attachment and separation hardware.
The three rocket cores are fixed together during liftoff and are created to break apart after launch and guide themselves back to safe landings: The two side boosters conduct synchronized touchdowns on ground pads in Florida, while the center booster aims for an autonomous seaborne platform, called a droneship.
While SpaceX does have hardware on its drone ship created to secure first stages - often referred to as a flat "robot" that holds them in place - it was not used for this mission, which successfully took an Arabsat satellite to orbit last Thursday. This is the first time the company has lost a landed stage on the way back to port.
That note of optimism about future missions is because next time around, SpaceX has hinted that it will have a new and improved octograbber - the contraption that grabs and hangs on to the smaller Falcon 9 booster that SpaceX also recovers at sea.
The Dragon spacecraft are used as the final stage of SpaceX missions to resupply the International Space Station.
SpaceX recovered a payload fairing for the first time in 2017. The two side boosters landed side-by-side at the former Launch Complex 13 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, several kilometers south of the launch site.