SpaceX Recovered Falcon 9 Landing Legs Detached, Retractions Still Experimental Not Ready for Prime Time: Gallery

SpaceX
Falcon 9 first stage landing leg is being retracted in a post landing operation
against the side of the recovered core on Sept. 13, 2018 (from Telstar 18v
launch)
using hoisting 2
cables pulled from the top of the newly utilized square shaped BLLRD apparatus
bolted on top of the booster.  As
observed from Port Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken
Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Ken Kremer 
  
SpaceUpClose.com     15 September 2018



PORT CANAVERAL, FL –  Craneworkers have gone ahead and completely detached
all landing legs from the recently recovered Falcon 9 1st stage after
encountering a numbers of issues that repeatedly interrupted initial plans to
retract the legs – thus illustrating that the retraction process remains
experimental at this time and is not yet ready for prime time, as I observed over
a multi-day period this week in Port Canaveral, Florida.



SpaceX engineers in concert with the
crane crews apparently determined that leg removal rather than leg retraction up
against the 15-story tall core remains the best course of action, at least for
now while they work out the kinks – with respect to the upgraded Block 5 model first
stage boosters that propulsively soft land on a vessel at sea after launching
and carrying their payload to orbit.  



Check out my Space UpClose gallery
of eyewitness photos detailing the landing leg retraction, re-lowering and
ultimately dissection/detachment of all four legs,
utilizing
what we call the ‘Booster Lift/Leg Retraction Device’  or BLLRD. 
Also watch the high-resolution
videos provided by US Launch Report. 



Action
view shows removal of landing leg pads and struts – positioned side to side –
being slung from harnesses and moved by cranes from recovered SpaceX Falcon 9
on Sept. 14, 2018 after arrival back in Port Canaveral following Telstar18v
launch. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

SpaceX Falcon 9 first
stage landing leg is fully retracted against the side of the recovered core on Sept.
13, 2018 (from Telstar 18v launch) using hoisting 2 cables pulled from the top
of the newly utilized square shaped BLLRD apparatus bolted on top of the
booster.  See NASA’s VAB in the
background as observed from Exploration Tower and Port Canaveral, FL in a post
landing/port arrival operation. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

The team did successfully raise the
left side landing leg fully flush against the core – two times overall – but
only after pausing many times and manually intervening to make measurements with
what looked like tape measures and touching the struts and landing pads for
unknown reasons – very likely in real time consultation with engineers at
SpaceX HQ evaluating how best to proceed forward.





SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage landing leg is fully
retracted against the side of the recovered core on Sept. 13, 2018 (from
Telstar 18v launch) using hoisting 2 cables pulled from the top of the newly
utilized square shaped BLLRD apparatus bolted on top of the booster.  As observed from Port Canaveral, FL in a post
landing/port arrival operation. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com


In fact the crew had to interrupt
the retraction upward process mid way through and actually re-lowered the leg
before finally re-raising the leg completely during a lengthy operation of fits
and starts which took a little more 90 minutes, Thursday morning, Sept. 13. 

One possibility is that perhaps the landing
struts and pads deformed ever so slightly and
got stuck during retraction
due to the severe aerodynamic forces of
the Telstar 18v launch and landing and their design may need to be refined. 



SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage landing leg is being
retracted in a post landing operation against the side of the recovered core on
Sept. 13, 2018 (from Telstar 18v launch) using
hoisting 2 cables pulled from the top of the newly utilized square shaped BLLRD
apparatus bolted on top of the booster. 
As observed from Port Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken
Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
 







The retraction work started rapidly,
barely three days after a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off early Monday,
Sept. 10 and successfully delivered the powerful Telesat 18v telecommunications
to orbit, and then subsequently landed safely upright on an ocean going
platform in the Atlantic Ocean.






SpaceX Falcon 9 first
stage landing leg is fully retracted against the side of the recovered core on Sept.
13, 2018 (from Telstar 18v launch) using hoisting 2 cables pulled from the top
of the newly utilized square shaped BLLRD apparatus bolted on top of the
booster.  See NASA’s VAB in the
background as observed from Exploration Tower and Port Canaveral, FL in a post
landing/port arrival operation. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Only two days after blastoff the
recovered first stage booster sailed into Port Canaveral Wednesday September 12
– beating out the then approaching deadly menace of Hurricane Florence.



SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage booster
arrives back into Port Canaveral, FL on Sep. 12, 2018 guided by SpaceX Naval
fleet atop the ocean going OCISLY droneship platform upon which it landed after
launching the Telstar 18v comsat on Sep 10 from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape
Canaveral Air Force Station, FL. 
Credit:
Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

The sooty booster was towed into
Port Canaveral atop the “
Of
Course I Still Love You”  (or OCISLY)
drone ship
platform upon which it landed Monday
and that was prepositioned some 400 miles (640 km) off shore in the Atlantic
Ocean.  Check out our story and photos.



Landing leg retraction was touted by
SpaceX CEO and billionaire founder Elon Musk as a key improvement milestone toward
the goal of achieving far faster turnaround of ‘Flight-Proven’ first stages for
the significantly improved Block 5 version Falcon 9 vs. the older and now
retired Block 4 first stages. 



In fact Musk said he aims for his
SpaceX team to launch, land and relaunch the same booster within a 24 hour
period.



After docking the droneship at the port
the crew installed a cap at the top of the booster that we are dubbing the
Booster Lift/Leg Retraction Device (or BLLRD).



The square shaped cage-like BLLRD apparatus
consists of pullies, cables, stabilizers and an adjustable circular hoisting cap
that can all be operated remotely. 



Recovered SpaceX Falcon 9 first
stage booster is craned off the ocean going OCISLY droneship platform on Sept.
12, 2018 onto mounting cradle on land at Port Canaveral, FL, using Booster
Lift/Leg Retraction Device (BLLRD).  It
was towed into Port after successful soft landing following Telstar 18v comsat launch
Sept. 10 from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station,
FL. 
Credit: Ken
Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

An earlier, simpler version of the hoisting
cap required the crane workers to pull the cables down manually on cherry
pickers. A series of four sets of cables are used to attach to the ground for
stabilization. Another set of two cables is manually attached to the tip of the
landing pad to enable retraction by rotating the pully’s.



With the BLLRD firmly attached atop,
the team comprised of some two dozen or so workers hoisted the sooty booster
off
OCISLY
and onto a cradle mounting platform on land Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 12.
Check out our story and photos. 



The crane operations team then set
about to raise the left side landing leg.



Starting early Thursday morning Sep.
13, the team used the BLLRD to try and retract the left side landing leg – as I
watched from across the narrow channel in Port Canaveral.



Eventually they succeeded, but only
after many starts and stops. 



Surprisingly, the retraction operation
for this booster took some 90 minutes from about 9:30 am to 11 am EDT – more than
twice as long as the same operation took for the recovered Telstar 19v booster
back in late-July lasting about 40 minutes.



Even more surprisingly the team then
redeployed the left leg in a free fall operation by gravity, that took some 2.5
seconds – just like a real landing!  The
leg bounced and shuddered for a few moments after it fully extended around 1230
p.m..






All
4 legs back down after lone retracted landing leg is redeployed/relowered for
further experimentation on retraction operations by cranes from recovered
SpaceX Falcon 9 on Sept. 13, 2018 after arrival back in Port Canaveral
following Telstar18v launch. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

So we wondered what would happen next-
detachment or another retraction experiment?



Well the powers to be decided to retract
that same left side leg again Thursday afternoon. The results and timing were
the same.

Overall the 2nd
retraction took some 90 minutes, was interrupted for manual action by the team
as the leg was partially raised, then lowered and finally raised fully flush snugly
against the core  starting about 445 p.m.
and concluding a very long and intensive day of operations at about 6:20 p.m.
Sep 13.





And as it turned out, that was the
end of the retraction experimentation because the next day, Friday, Sept. 14,
the crews went about unbolting, detaching and dissecting off all four legs.



But first they again commanded a
gravity drop of the retracted left landing leg that took about 2.5 seconds at
12:30 p.m.



It then took about 3 hours to remove
all 4 landing struts and all 4 landing pads.



Watch this high resolution video detailing
the landing leg retraction and removal operations from US Launch Report:


Each landing leg strut was carefully
slung on a harness and craned away. Similarly  they set to work detaching the landing pads
using an even larger harness and larger crane. 



In contrast to earlier leg removals,
the teams were simultaneously detaching struts and landing pads from different landing
leg at the same time – in a remarkably well choreographed operation that was
fascinating to watch with multiple loaded cranes moving at once in different directions.

Action
view shows removal of landing leg pads and struts – positioned side to side –
being slung from harnesses and moved by cranes from recovered SpaceX Falcon 9
on Sept. 14, 2018 after arrival back in Port Canaveral following Telstar18v
launch. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Thus Musk’s hoped for goal of raising
all four landing legs back up and locking then in place flush against the core exterior
will have to wait until the retraction kinks are work out for a future launch
and landing opportunity. 

Action
view shows removal of landing leg pads and struts – positioned side to side –
being slung from harnesses and moved by cranes from recovered SpaceX Falcon 9
on Sept. 14, 2018 after arrival back in Port Canaveral following Telstar18v
launch. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA,
Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK and more space and mission reports direct
from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida and
Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia.



Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human
spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com
–www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com

………….

Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events



SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage landing leg is fully
retracted against the side of the recovered core on Sept. 13, 2018 (from
Telstar 18v launch) using hoisting 2 cables pulled from the top of the newly
utilized square shaped BLLRD apparatus bolted on top of the booster.  As observed from Port Canaveral, FL in a post
landing/port arrival operation. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com








Ken Kremer

Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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