Floating SpaceX Falcon 9 Towed into Port Canaveral after Aborted Landing: Photos

Floating SpaceX Falcon 9 towed into Port Canaveral,
FL, on 7 Dec. 2018 is nudged into docking slip by tugboats.  The 15-story tall first stage made an aborted
splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean on 5 Dec. 2018 after a grid fin hydraulic
failure forced retargeting landing away from the ground at Landing Zone-1 at
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station following blastoff on the Dragon CRS-16
resupply mission for NASA to the ISS.
Credit:
Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Ken Kremer  SpaceUpClose.com &
RocketSTEM
–7 December 2018


PORT CANAVERAL/KENNEDY
SPACE CENTER, FL –  Two days after
successfully launching a Dragon cargo ship to the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday, Dec. 5, the floating spent Falcon 9 carrier rocket was
towed into Port Canaveral, FL, late Friday morning, Dec 7, after malfunctioning
and accomplishing an unplanned emergency aborted landing in the Atlantic Ocean,
tipping over and surviving horizontally as a remarkably intact sea worthy vessel. 



The seemingly straight
out of science fiction event made for an absolutely otherworldly and absolutely
first of its kind sight – attracting the rapt attention of space media like
myself and colleagues and folks who just happened to be in the right place at
the right time.

Floating SpaceX Falcon 9 towed into mouth of Port
Canaveral, FL, on 7 Dec. 2018 by Jetty Park Pier.  The 15-story tall first stage made an aborted
splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean on 5 Dec. 2018 after a grid fin hydraulic
failure forced retargeting landing away from the ground at Landing Zone-1 at
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station following blastoff on the Dragon CRS-16
resupply mission for NASA to the ISS.
Credit:
Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Check out our expanding
gallery of Space UpClose eyewitness photos documenting the entire voyage from arrival
at port, traveling through the port, docking and hoisting onto land and dismantling
the landing legs.  Click back for more
imagery as the gallery grows. 
UpClose view of 3
landing legs (and Cape Canaveral lighthouse) above water at base of floating SpaceX Falcon 9 towed into mouth
of Port Canaveral, FL, on 7 Dec. 2018.  The
15-story tall first stage made an aborted splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean on 5
Dec. 2018 after a grid fin malfunction following launch of Dragon CRS-16
resupply mission for NASA to the ISS.
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
UpClose view of the grid fins and heavily damaged and
mangled interstage at top of floating SpaceX Falcon 9 towed into mouth of Port
Canaveral, FL, on 7 Dec. 2018. The 15-story tall first stage made an aborted
splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean on 5 Dec. 2018 after a grid fin malfunction following
launch of Dragon CRS-16 resupply mission for NASA to the ISS.
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
The horizontally floating
Falcon 9 first stage looked like a giant finned shark or alien sea  creature with three of its four landing legs poking
out  above the ocean’s surface as it approached
the mouth of Port Canaveral at Jetty Park Pier just after 11 a.m. EST Friday,
Dec. 7. 
Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
UpClose view of the grid fins and heavily damaged and
mangled interstage at top of floating SpaceX Falcon 9 towed into mouth of Port
Canaveral, FL, on 7 Dec. 2018. The 15-story tall first stage made an aborted
splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean on 5 Dec. 2018 after a grid fin malfunction following
launch of Dragon CRS-16 resupply mission for NASA to the ISS.
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

The fourth leg was
missing. It either snapped off post splashdown or was hacked off by the diving team
from Logan Diving & Salvage who had attached flotation bags, cushion and
rope lines during its two day voyage back to port. In contrast all four
grid fins were intact. 

SpaceX Falcon 9 floats
into Port Canaveral on 7 Dec. 2018 towed by tugboats crews after sea ditch
landing following successful Dragon cargo launch for NASA to ISS on 5 Dec.
2018.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
These totally unique viewing
angles of the Falcon 9 returning horizontally afforded totally unique photos
looking all around both sides of booster, looking up from the bottom with all 9
Merlin 1D engines, down from the top, and inside the core interstage and
landing legs. Quite an exciting and unexpected treat. 
Floating SpaceX Falcon 9 towed into Port
Canaveral, FL, on 7 Dec. 2018 is nudged into docking slip by tugboats.  The 15-story tall first stage made an aborted
splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean on 5 Dec. 2018 after a grid fin hydraulic
failure forced retargeting landing away from the ground at Landing Zone-1 at
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station following blastoff on the Dragon CRS-16 resupply
mission for NASA to the ISS.
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
The Falcon 9 and SpaceX
tugboat fleet actually arrived just outside the port channel mouth late Thursday
afternoon, but had to wait their turn in ling for normal higher priority Cruise
Ship traffic to enter and depart – see our amazing photos!
Floating SpaceX Falcon 9 towed to the entrance of Port
Canaveral, FL, on 6 Dec. 2018 awaiting departure of US Navy nuclear submarine
USS Indiana and giant Cruise Ships before entering port on 7 Dec.
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com



Floating SpaceX Falcon 9 towed to the entrance of Port
Canaveral, FL, on 6 Dec. 2018 awaiting departure of US Navy nuclear submarine
USS Indiana and giant Cruise Ships before entering port on 7 Dec.
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com



Early Friday morning
SpaceX also had to wait for the departure of the US Navy Nuclear Submarine recently
christened USS Indiana- see photos and separate story. 
2 Marvels of Technology and ships passing at sea- Floating SpaceX
Falcon 9 arriving and USS Indiana nuclear submarine departing Port Canaveral
& Jetty Park Pier on 7 Dec. 2018.  Soaring to Space and Submerging at Sea. Credit:
Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

After completing its
primary mission of delivering the Dragon ship to orbit for NASA, the Falcon 9 first
stage was returning to Earth and targeting a soft touchdown back on land at Cape
Canaveral at its designated Landing Zone-1 – as SpaceX has done here multiple
times already over the past 2 years. 



But instead we
witnessed something unexpected as the 15-story tall booster suddenly  spun out of control for the first time during
its descent phase due to a hydraulic pump failure in one of four grid fins used
for steering – as I witnessed and reported here on launch day – and aborted to make
a safe splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean just a mile or so offshore of the
Florida coastline and away from populated areas.



After on board
autonomous guidance systems realized the booster would failing to make a vertical
touchdown back on land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the engines of the plummeting
15 story tall booster finally regained control of the descent in the final moments
and retargeted the booster to accomplish an upright  ‘soft landing’ at sea 8 minutes after liftoff –
just offshore in the ocean waters. 

Falcon 9 1st stage booster is spinning almost
out of control during final descent until engines stabilize enough to regain
control, deploy 4 landing legs and retarget for ocean landing just off shore
from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, after Dec. 5, 2018 launch on SpaceX
Dragon CRS-16 mission to the ISS for NASA.  Credit:
Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

The booster was towed into
Port Canaveral at lunchtime Friday by the Eagle tugboat assisted by a small
fleet of SpaceX contracted ships. 

UpClose view of 3
landing legs above water at base of floating SpaceX Falcon 9 towed into mouth
of Port Canaveral, FL, on 7 Dec. 2018.  The
15-story tall first stage made an aborted splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean on 5
Dec. 2018 after a grid fin malfunction following launch of Dragon CRS-16
resupply mission for NASA to the ISS.
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
SpaceX Falcon 9 floats
into Port Canaveral on 7 Dec. 2018 towed by tugboats crews after sea ditch
landing following successful Dragon cargo launch for NASA to ISS on 5 Dec.
2018.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

It took about another
30 minutes for the floating Falcon to be towed through the narrow channel of
Port Canaveral to ultimately reach the same dock facility used by SpaceX after
returns of vertically landed boosters on top of the OCISLY drone ship. Those
occur some 400 mi (600 km) offshore and the most recent drone ship landed
booster was towed in port about three weeks ago.



We could see that the
booster survived with remarkable resilience. Except for the integrate at top
which was heavily damaged, cracked, broken, deformed significantly and missing
pieces.  



After reaching the vicinity
of the docking slip, the fleet of ships and tugboats then gently nudged the
booster towards the dock seawall – right beside OCISLY which was also docked in
port. 



Work crews then
surrounded the booster with a containment boom to limit pollution from residual
chemicals and particles potentially dislodging and floating free.



Later in the afternoon,
the dock crews could be seen hard at work attaching two slings around the core
stage for eventual hoisting out of the water using two hoisting cranes – near
the front and back.  



The booster was finally
hoisted out of the channel late Friday evening and placed on two pedestals on
land.



With the return of
daylight the next morning, crews would begin removing all the floatation bags,
cushions and rope lines, and then the landing legs – see follow up story/photos. 



The lunchtime Wednesday
launch of the Falcon 9 itself was spectacular and fully successful in starting the
Dragon CRS-16 spacecraft on its three day journey to the ISS. 
A
SpaceX Dragon CRS-16 spacecraft launches to the International Space Station at
1:16 p.m. EST Dec. 5, 2018, on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40
at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying more than 5,600 pounds
of research equipment, cargo and supplies on the 16th resupply
mission for NASA.
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

The mission began with
the flawless bl
astoff
of the new SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon CRS-16 commercial cargo freighter right
on time Wednesday afternoon December 5
as all nine first stage Merlin 1D engines roared to life and ignited
with 1.8 million pounds of liftoff thrust at 1:16 p.m. EST
(1816 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force
Station in Florida.



Watch my commentary about the successful launch
and ‘successful failure’ of the retargeted aborted  landing here at Fox 35 News Orlando, FL:
http://www.fox35orlando.com/news/local-news/spacex-falcon-9-launch-scheduled-for-wednesday-afternoon


The prior CRS-15 resupply flight successfully flew in June
from pad 40. 



The two stage Falcon 9/Dragon rocket stands
about 213-feet (65-meters) tall.



To date SpaceX has successfully landed 32 1st stage
rockets by land and by sea. And they have reused 17 of those 15 story tall boosters
since the first relaunch in March 2017 relaunch for SES. 



CRS-16 marks the 20th flight overall for SpaceX
in 2018 and the 4th ISS resupply mission for NASA in 2018. 

SpaceX was awarded a $3.04
Billion contract from NASA to launch 20 Dragon cargo missions to the orbiting outpost
through 2019 under the Commercial Resupply  Services (CRS) agreement.  


Watch for Ken’s
continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, 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







SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket poised
for liftoff on Dragon CRS-16 cargo ship mission to the ISS from Space Launch
Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, on Dec. 5, 2018 at 1:16 pm
EST. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com



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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.