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.
A SpaceX commentator called it a "bummer", but noted it was secondary to the main mission of getting the Dragon capsule to orbit.
Wednesday's mission was SpaceX's 16th to resupply with space station.
SpaceX had planned to land the first stage of the brand-new Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket at a landing zone ashore at Cape Canaveral, but as the rocket descended toward the cape, the live feed from the booster's onboard cameras appeared to show the craft going into some sort of uncontrolled spin.
The mission had been a complete success until the aborted landing.
The first stage, meanwhile, tried to come back for a vertical landing at Cape Canaveral.
This mission also served as the first time SpaceX launched the same booster a third time.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket vaulted off the pad from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base on Monday, tearing its way through unusually clear blue skies on a path to secure at least four company records before deploying dozens of spacecraft. His interest in space, and his background in journalism and public relations suit him for his focus on research and development activities at NASA Glenn Research Center, and its Plum Brook Station testing facility, both in northeastern Ohio. "Recovery ship dispatched", Musk tweeted.
Ocean platform landings have proven a bit trickier, but SpaceX has managed to stick the landing, whether on land or sea, 32 times in all. The change may simply have resulted from landing-leg deployment, he said. These steerable, waffle-like devices help the rocket guide itself toward a landing site while returning to Earth, then stabilize the booster during landing. "It knows where buildings are, so it's pretty smart in that aspect", he said of the landing system on the booster. Twenty years ago this week, Cabana commanded the shuttle mission that carried up the first US part of the space station.
Meanwhile, the Dragon spacecraft continues on its way to the space station, carrying fresh mouse food; new science and engineering experiments; and plenty of other goodies.