SpaceX on Wednesday had trouble sticking the landing with one of its reusable rockets.
Now, with its latest version of the Falcon 9 rocket (the model called Block 5), the company can effectively recycle some of the most expensive components of its rockets while saving money and reducing turnaround time.
The SpaceX booster rocket missed its landing zone on the ground, however, and fell into the sea, just offshore.
In what has become a rare sight, the Falcon 9 vertical on the Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station awaiting blast off is a new rocket.
The mission is SpaceX's 16th for Nasa as part of a long-term contract to ferry supplies to space.
The primary mission was an undeniable hit, but this time around, SpaceX's attempt to have the Falcon 9's first-stage booster touch down on a landing pad was a miss. The booster, covered in black soot from its two prior flights, landed again on an ocean barge in the Pacific Ocean after launch, queuing up the rocket to fly for a fourth time.
Elon Musk, the chief executive of SpaceX, said in a series of tweets that a hydraulic pump used for the grid fins malfunctioned, which prevented them from working properly and leading to the stage spinning up.
The Falcon 9 is equipped with four fins that rise perpendicular to the body of the rocket as the craft descends, to help slow and control its approach for landing.
SpaceX clearly has its core business in good shape, which is impressive since it's literally rocket science, but there are still big questions moving forward.
Altogether, the company has recovered 32 boosters following liftoff - 33 once this one is towed back, said Hans Koenigsmann, a SpaceX vice-president. Musk also indicated that ships were en route to retrieve the booster. "Given this event, we will likely add a backup pump & lines", he tweeted.
Shortly after takeoff Wednesday, the booster that powered SpaceX's Falcon 9, which was carrying the supplies in its Dragon spacecraft, separated and started to chart a return. The crew-carrying version of Dragon is schedule to fly a test mission next month, and if all goes well, will carry astronauts to the station later in the year in what would be the first crewed flight from USA soil since the space shuttles retired in 2011.
It should arrive at the space station on Saturday. The company's next launch, of the first Global Positioning System 3 satellite for the U.S. Air Force, is scheduled for no earlier than December 18, followed by the launch of the final 10 Iridium Next satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California no earlier than December 30.