Christmas turkey is rocketing toward the International Space Station, along with cranberry sauce, candied yams and the obligatory fruitcake.

The CRS-16 mission launched supplies to the ISS on Wednesday, but the booster headed for the landing pad missed and landed in the water instead, ending SpaceX's ideal record of 12 previous successful landings.

Television cameras switched away from the rocket a moment before impact, but amateur video showed the rocket extending its landing legs and slowing for landing on the power of a single engine, the normal procedure for touchdown.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket landed at sea Wednesday after a stabilizer fin problem prevented a conventional landing.

In a tweet, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk attributed the crash to a stalled hydraulic pump (which controls the fins on the rocket). It appeared to be undamaged and was transmitting data, Musk said, adding that a recovery ship was sent to retrieve it. Musk noted via Twitter. After more than two dozen successful rocket landings, SpaceX's most recent attempt resulted in a splashdown, though the rocket remained intact and was retrieved by the company.

Altogether, the company has recovered 32 boosters following liftoff - 33 once this one is towed back, said Hans Koenigsmann, a SpaceX vice-president.

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"Public safety was well protected here", he told reporters.

SpaceX stressed that their primary mission was launching NASA's supplies into space, and so far that mission is on track, with the Dragon spacecraft scheduled to reach the ISS on December 8.

It should arrive at the space station on Saturday. There will be plenty of room on board for all the tiny nematodes long.

The launch was delayed for a day after NASA discovered that the food for the mouse-tronauts was moldy because of contamination.

SpaceX has been making station deliveries for Nasa since 2012. The company expects to start launching station crews next year.