RocketSTEM –22 November 2018
PORT CANAVERAL, FL – Barely two days after last week’s launched
and landed SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage arrived back home into Port Canaveral on
Monday, Nov. 19, technicians quickly completed all processing work on shore detaching
the landing legs, tilting the legless booster 90 degrees from vertical to
horizontal and transportation back to the Cape Wednesday, Nov. 21, for eventual
reuse on another soar to space – from
Florida’s burgeoning spaceport.
This marks another dramatic display
of SpaceX’s revolutionary commitment and almost routine implementation of SpaceX
CEO Elon Musk’s oft stated goal to launch, land, recover, recycle, refurbish and
reuse ‘flight-proven’ rockets and radically cut the cost of access to space.
Overall it took the SpaceX work team
just over 48 hours from the time this recovered Falcon 9 Block 5 first stage from
comsat launch arrived at the mouth of Port Canaveral’s
channel standing upright on the OCISLY drone ship at noontime Monday to its rotation level to the ground and
mid-afternoon Wednesday trip back to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – just in time for
the Thanksgiving holidays.
Perhaps this Block 5 version booster labeled 1047 will fly for a 3rd time in 2019. Musk plans to fly these significantly upgraded Block 5 boosters 10
times with minimal refurbishment in between liftoffs.
Check out my Space UpClose gallery
of eyewitness photos detailing virtually all the booster preparatory activities
in between except for the leg disassembly carried out after nightfall, in between
on Tuesday evening, Nov. 20.
Click back for more photos as the
These photos show the sequential tilting
and lowering of the 15-story-tall SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage from vertical to
horizontal over a timespan of about a 10 minutes from 1145
to 1155 a.m. EST Nov. 21 using a pair of cranes working on the recovered
booster from the Es’hail-2
launch on Nov. 15.
The photos are dramatically backdropped by NASA’s
iconic Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) in
these overhead views taken from Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral.
The booster was capped at the top with the high tech hoisting
cap device we informally call the square shaped cage-like hoisting device the ‘Booster Lift/Leg Retraction Device’ or BLLRD.
The BLLRD was installed atop the booster on Tuesday morning and
was used at lunchtime Tuesday to hoist it off the docked OCISLY from ship to shore onto onto
the mounting cradle platform at the Port.
The left side yellow colored crane cable were attached to the
BLLRD while the right side while colored crane cable was attached to the base
of the booster.
Here are some UpClose sequential views of the BLLRD taken during the processing, tilting, rotation procedure.
After it was rotated down horizontal, the 1st stage
was held in mid-air by the cranes – making for a spectacular view – for a short
period of time as the wheeled white transporter was driven beneath.
Then it was lowered into the transporters two cradles and additional
mounting rings attached at front and back to securely clamp it down for the journey
back to the Cape.
The BLLRD was carefully detached by the yellow crane crew at
about 230 p.m. EST. Thereafter the open to the air booster was hooded with a black
tarp at the top.
By 3 p.m. all that work was completed. Then the booster was rolled
out of the Port work station and back to the Cape around 4 p.m.
The square-shaped cage-like BLLRD apparatus
was noticeably different Tuesday from its prior incarnation and use on the
recovered Telstar 18v booster in September.
The BLLRD was rather stripped down –
a good indication that the SpaceX engineers decided to simply dissect off all 4
legs from the start rather than try and retract them experimentally like for
Telstar 18v – as CEO Elon Musk said was
the ultimate goal to enable quick launch turnaround in as little as 24 hours
for the Block 5 version of Falcon 9.
Noticeably absent were the pullies,
cables and stabilizers installed on the square shaped cage – which still held
the circular hoisting cap, and can be operated remotely. The BLLRD was raised
into place by the crane operator around 8 a.m. ET Tuesday and mounted firmly. It
is also apparently powered by a trio of solar panels – seen in side views.
experimental efforts to retract the landing legs.
In the end, the technicians made no
attempt at all to retract the legs. That will have to wait for a future recovered
Falcon 9 sometime in 2019.
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
The now twice ‘flight-proven’ and
twice ‘ocean-landed’ 1st stage booster was towed into Port Canaveral
channel around 12:30 p.m. EST (1730 GMT) Nov.
Overhead view of SpaceX Falcon 9
first stage booster arrival back into Port Canaveral, FL on Nov. 19, 2018. Portside
docking guided by SpaceX Naval fleet atop the ocean going OCISLY droneship
platform upon which it landed after launching Es’hail-2 comsat
on Nov. 15 from Launch Complex-39A at Kennedy Space Center, FL. Credit:
The 156 foot tall Falcon 9 first
stage was standing virtually perfectly upright on the ‘Of Course I Still Love
You’ (OCISLY) drone ship platform upon which it successfully soft
landed propulsively at sea – with all four
landing legs fully deployed.
OCISLY was prepositioned some 400
miles (640 km) off shore in the Atlantic Ocean a few days prior to the
Upon arrival back in Port, the 15-story
tall sooty Falcon 9 Block 5 version booster – labeled 1047.2 – was sooty in appearance as usual but not excessively so upon
arrival after a sea going voyage of nearly four days and a space going voyage
of roughly some four minutes up and four minutes down.
The logos and American Flag
stenciled on the side of the booster were also remarkably well preserved.
SpaceX launched the Falcon 9
carrying the six ton Es’hail-2
telecommunications satellite at 3:46 p.m.
EST (2046 GMT) Thursday, Nov. 15, from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
This marked the first daytime launch since May from Florida’s spaceport.
This reused booster was previously used to launch the Telstar 19V
telecomsat on July 22, 2018 for Canadian-based Telesat.
The 229-foot-tall (70 meters) Falcon 9 successfully delivered the Es’hail 2 satellite for Qatar to its intended geostationary
transfer orbit. Subsequently the satellite will be raised to geostationary orbit
circling Earth 22,500 miles (36,000 kilometers) over the equator.
The precision guided rocket assisted
soft landing of the 156 foot tall booster on OCISLY took place just over eight minutes
after launch from KSC. All 4 landing legs successfully deployed in the last
This landing counts as the 31st
successful landing overall and the 18th by sea.
next launch from Florida is slated for no earlier than Dec. 4 on the Dragon
CRS-16 cargo resupply mission for NASA to the International Space Station (ISS).
Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman 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
Dr. Kremer is a research
scientist, journalist and photographer based in the KSC area.
Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events