SpaceX Falcon Heavy center core sticks upright
landing on OCISLY droneship on April 11, 2019, but toppled over due to rough
seas. Credit: SpaceX
Kremer — SpaceUpClose.com &
RocketSTEM – 15 April 2019
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER – The core booster of the triple stick Falcon
Heavy that successfully landed on a drone ship after last weeks SpaceX launch
has been lost due to rough seas while
returning to Port Canaveral.
The 15 story tall center booster that successfully
made a dramatic soft landing on the “Of Course I Still Love You” (OCISLY) drone
ship several hundred miles off shore in the Atlantic Ocean toppled over at some
point over the weekend because of hefty eight to ten foot sea swells.
The booster slipped and slided atop OCISLY because
teams were unable to secure it tightly with the octagrabber robot that would
have clamped onto it firmly atop the droneship deck.
Octagrabber is normally maneuvered beneath the
booster but in this case was unable to grasp the landed Falcon Heavy core booster
because its geometry is different from a normal Falcon 9 booster or the twin side
boosters that made a successful soft landing on the ground back at Cape
“Over the weekend, due
to rough sea conditions, SpaceX’s recovery team was unable to secure the center
core booster for its return trip to Port Canaveral,” SpaceX spokesman James
Gleason told Space UpClose.
“As conditions worsened
with eight to ten foot swells, the booster began to shift and ultimately was
unable to remain upright.”
The octagrabber system generally
used to stabilize the booster on the droneship was not able to be used for this
mission due to the center core having a different mechanical interface. Despite
that SpaceX still plans to use this system for their next Falcon Heavy launch
on mission #3.
This Falcon Heavy rocket
successfully launched the Arabsat-6A payload to orbit on April 11 at 6:36 p.m.
ET on its first commercial mission from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s
Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Read
our complete launch and landing story here.
Powered by 27 first stage Merlin 1D engines the
23 story tall Falcon Heavy behemoth thundered off pad 39A into picture perfect
skies to the cheers of the SpaceX team and well as to the tens of thousands of
spectators who flocked to Florida Space Coast beaches, parks, roadways and restaurants
– crowding into any open spot available to get an eyewitness birdseye view of
this not to be missed space spectacle.
And for the first time
in history all three Falcon Heavy launched boosters soft-landed successfully as
It was a happy case of ‘3
Up, 3 Down.’
The core booster was
being towed back to Port Canaveral for refurbishment and eventual reuse on a second
Falcon Heavy mission planned to launch in a few months but no earlier than June.”
“While we had hoped to
bring the booster back intact, the safety of our team always takes precedence.”
Despite the loss of the
core booster, that second Falcon Heavy mission is still on the manifest because
a new Falcon Heavy center core is being manufactured in case this one had not touched
down upright on OCISLY.
“We do not expect future
missions to be impacted,” Gleason added.
This launch also marked the debut of the first
all Block 5 version of Falcon Heavy compared to all Block 4 Falcon 9’s for the
maiden liftoff 14 months ago in Feb. 2018.
The two stage Falcon Heavy rocket stands 229.5
feet (70 meters) tall. The first stage is powered by a trio of Falcon 9 rockets
lashed together and a combined total of 27 Merlin 1-D engines fueled with
liquid oxygen and RP-1 kerosene and generate 1.7 million pounds of liftoff thrust
each at ignition.
The overall sea level thrust for Falcon Heavy is
5.1 million pound of thrust at sea level.
This rises to 5.5 million pounds of thrust in a
The side cores touched down approximately 8
minutes after liftoff and the center core nearly 10 minutes after liftoff.
Beyond that SpaceX was also able to recover both
payload fairing halves.
fairing halves recovered. Will be flown on Starlink mission later this year,” SpaceX
CEO and billionaire founder Elon Musk tweeted.
“They each have avionics,
several nitrogen thrusters & steerable parachutes.”
Thus SpaceX plans to reuse the side booster and fairings on upcoming launches.
Musk aims to drastically cut the high cost
of access to space by recovering and reusing the first stage boosters and engines,
fairing and more of the SpaceX Falcon family of rockets.
Heavy prelaunch commentary
for 1st SpaceX launch attempt April 10 – in these two News 6 WKMG / ClickOrlando TV News reports from
correspondent James Sparvero
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,
Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer
– email: ken at kenkremer.com
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