The Falcon 9 rocket first stage experienced a "hard landing" and broke one of its stabilizer arms designed to hold it upright. The fate of the rocket stage was not immediately known, and there was no video footage of the landing immediately available, those officials said.
This was the third time the Hawthorne-based company failed to accomplish a clean sea landing, although the company brought a Falcon rocket stage back to terra firma at Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Dec. 21 in what many hailed as an engineering feat.
Elon Musk indicates that the barge landing is needed for higher speed launches where it is not physically possible to return to the launch site.
Ship landings are not needed for flexibility or to save fuel costs. Just not physically possible to return to launch site— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 17, 2016
If speed at stage separation > ~6000 km/hr. With a ship, no need to zero out lateral velocity, so can stage at up to ~9000 km/h.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 17, 2016
As mentioned before, ship landings are needed for high velocity missions. Altitude & distance don't mean much for orbit. All about speed.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 17, 2016
Well, at least the pieces were bigger this time! Won't be last RUD, but am optimistic about upcoming ship landing. pic.twitter.com/w007TccANJ— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 17, 2016
SOURCES - Twitter, Elon Musk, Spacex, LA Times