2 Up/2 Off – 4 Time Recycled SpaceX Falcon 9 Landing Legs Retracted and Detached for Roll Back to Cape: Photos

Up Close look at base of 4x recycled Starlink Falcon 9 1st stage with 2 landing legs fully retracted on opposite sides and 2 landing legs still deployed down on opposite sides that were eventually fully detached and not successfully retracted at ground pedestal in Port Canaveral, Florida on Jan. 11, 2020. From Jan. 6 SpaceX Starlink 2 launch. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM

PORT CANAVERAL/CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL – It was a evenly mixed bag of results for the SpaceX crane crews working on the landing legs of the 4 time recycled SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage booster from the Starlink 2 mission, as they were only able to successfully retract two while the other two were completely detached – perfect symmetry from opposite sides no less.

In other words the final outcome for the landing legs of the 156 foot tall 1st stage was perfectly balanced and evenly split at – 2 Up and 2 Off!

This Starlink 2 booster leg work began on Sat. Jan. 11 a day after it was craned off the “Of Course I Still Love You” (OCISLY) droneship mid-afternoon Friday, Jan. 10.  And 2 days after it was towed back into Port Canaveral on Jan. 9 atop OCISLY.

The leg retraction work started successfully on Jan. 11 as 2 legs were retracted and continued unsuccessfully on Sunday, Jan. 12 as the crane crews attempted to use the hoisting cap to raise the legs flush against the side of the 156 foot tall story tall booster core.

From my perspective at Port Canaveral directly across from the ground pedestal the two side legs were raised successfully and the two front and back legs were not.

Instead they were dissected off in 2 steps separately – namely the landing leg struts and the landing leg pads.

4x recycled Starlink Falcon 9 1st stage with 2 landing legs fully retracted on opposite sides and 2 landing legs fully detached on opposite sides is tilted and lowered horizontally by two cranes and crews working together around 230 PM EST Jan. 12, 2020 in Port Canaveral, Florida. From Jan. 6 SpaceX Starlink 2 launch.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

And for what I think may well be the first time, the unique used Falcon 9 booster was lowered horizontal in the proportional 2 by 2 format for the first time around 230 PM EST Jan. 12 – and rolled back to the Cape looking black and white at the base.

UpClose look at base of 4x recycled Starlink Falcon 9 1st stage with 2 landing legs fully retracted on opposite sides and 2 landing legs fully detached on opposite sides is tilted and lowered horizontally by two cranes and crews working together around 230 PM EST Jan. 12, 2020 in Port Canaveral, Florida. From Jan. 6 SpaceX Starlink 2 launch. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Enjoy our Space UpClose photo gallery of the 2 by 2 Falcon 9 booster 1049.4 standing both vertical and resting horizonal taken over this weekend of the SpaceX crane crew efforts on Saturday and Sunday Jan. 11 and 12 at Port Canaveral.

Up Close look at base of 4x recycled Starlink Falcon 9 1st stage with 2 landing legs fully retracted on opposite sides and 2 landing legs still deployed down on opposite sides that were eventually fully detached and not successfully retracted at ground pedestal in Port Canaveral, Florida on Jan. 11, 2020. From Jan. 6 SpaceX Starlink 2 launch. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Before the landing leg retraction work started on Saturday I observed the workers quite thoroughly hosing down the recycled boosters 4 landing legs on Friday.

Workers rinse each Falcon 9 landing strut and pad clean with high pressure water hose as the recovered 1st stage booster stands upright atop OCISLY droneship clamped in place by octagrabber on Jan 10, 2020 – prior to craning onto land pedestal hours later at Port Canaveral, FL. From Jan. 6 SpaceX Starlink 2 launch. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

See also our story and photos from Friday’s hoisting cap attachment, water hose rinsing and craning off OCISLY operations.

The booster was transported horizontally back to the Cape on Monday, Jan 13 on the white wheeled transporter for eventual reuse.

Up Close look at 4 landing legs and 9 Merlin 1D engines at base of recovered Starlink Falcon 9 1st stage craned off SpaceX recovery ship OCISLY around 3 PM EST Jan. 10, 2020 using Liebherr Mobile Harbor Crane – around a day after near sunset arrival atop OCISLY into Port Canaveral. Note: 9 Merlin 1D engines fully exposed. From Jan. 6 SpaceX Starlink 2 launch. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

One by one they methodically shot a fire hefty stream of water to wash each strut and landing pad for several minutes each – gradually circling around to all four legs – with the booster still standing upright on the OCISLY droneship.

Thus the workers apparent attempt at rinsing the leg mechanisms of accumulated sprays of sea salt, chemicals contaminants, greases, oils and assorted FOD and more was only partially successful.

Presumably SpaceX tried the landing leg cleansings to help enable the difficult leg retractions work as the strut piston segments are closed in.

4x recycled Starlink Falcon 9 1st stage with 2 landing legs fully retracted on opposite sides and 2 landing legs fully detached on opposite sides is tilted and lowered horizontally by two cranes and crews working together around 230 PM EST Jan. 12, 2020 in Port Canaveral, Florida. From Jan. 6 SpaceX Starlink 2 launch. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

During the leg retraction work I have often seen the workers halt in fits and starts to inspect the strut pistons and wipe them clean.

Sometimes the wiping works and the leg is fully retracted- and other times the retraction fails for an unknown host of reasons.

4x recycled Starlink Falcon 9 1st stage with 2 landing legs fully retracted on opposite sides and 2 landing legs still deployed down on opposite sides that were eventually fully detached and not successfully retracted at ground pedestal in Port Canaveral, Florida on Jan. 11, 2020. From Jan. 6 SpaceX Starlink 2 launch. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

The bottom line is SpaceX still has many lessons to learn and new experiments and procedures to try in order to make the leg retractions more robust – which clearly they are not at this time since only 2 legs were retracted.

Booster 1049.4 arrived into Port Canaveral Thursday late afternoon Jan. 9 barely three days after the thrilling first blastoff of 2020 streaked to orbit Monday night Jan. 6 from the Florida Space Coast on only the second quadruply launched SpaceX Falcon 9 booster.

Ocean spray from crashing waves against the Jetty Park beach rocks greets arrival of fourth-time launched Falcon 9 1st stage booster landed atop “Of Course I Still Love You” (OCISLY) droneship into Port Canaveral late afternoon Jan. 9, 2020 – 3 days after SpaceX Starlink 2 launch Jan. 6 from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

It launched on the 3rd Starlink mission carrying 60 broadband internet satellites.

The quadruply recovered 1st stage booster sailed into Port Canaveral atop the OCISLY droneship Thursday during a rare late afternoon arrival Jan. 9 under picture perfect sunlight accompanied by crashing waves for an exciting arrival into Jetty Park Pier and Port Canaveral, Florida.

See also our earlier Port Canaveral arrival story and photos.

The craning off OCISLY away from the clutches of the octograbber and onto the regular land pedestal started at about 3 p.m. EST took about 30 minutes – overall about the same length of time as with the old yellow crane prior to the Liebherr.

Liftoff of the 3rd Starlink mission – officially designated as Starlink 2 – on this fourth time recycled Falcon 9 took place during an instantaneous launch window at 9:19 p.m. EST Monday, Jan. 6 (0219 GMT Tuesday, Jan. 7) from Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40) on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL.

UpClose view of 9 Merlin 1D first stage engines and gripper arm as Recycled SpaceX Falcon 9 blasts off on Jan. 6, 2020 at 9:19 p.m. EST. from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL on 3rd Starlink mission with 60 internet broadband satellites. The 1st stage booster is only the second one to launch 4 times. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

SpaceX then successfully soft landed the Falcon 9 first stage for the fourth time – in this case on the “Of Course I Still Love You” (OCISLY) droneship deployed some 400 miles (620 km) downrange in the Atlantic Ocean off the Carolinas coast.

Enjoy our Space UpClose gallery of images of Monday’s spectacular blastoff.

Recycled SpaceX Falcon 9 blasts off on Jan. 6, 2020 at 9:19 p.m. EST. from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL on 3rd Starlink mission with 60 internet broadband satellites. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

In another major milestone in rocket recycling the mission marks only the second time use of a reused first stage booster for the fourth time.

The first 4th flown booster was used on the prior Stalink mission launched on November 11, 2019.
This counts as the 48th successful booster landing recovery by sea or by land.

Thus the booster is set up to launch for a record fifth time perhaps later this year.

To date it flew on three prior missions on Starlink 1 in May 2019 as well as Iridium-8 and the Telstar 18 VANTAGE mission.

The Block 5 Falcon 9 first stages are designed to launch 10 times each with minimal refurbishment between flights.

The two stage Falcon 9 rocket stands 229 feet (70 meters) tall.

SpaceX currently plans at least two additional Falcon 9 launches in January – almost back to back on Jan 18 and Jan 20.

Namely the InFlight Abort Test (IFA) Jan 18 to demonstrate the emergency abort escape capability with a Crew Dragon for NASA involving the ability to save the astronauts from a failing rocket in flight – and another Starlink mission now NET Jan 20.

My commentary and photos about the SpaceX Starlink launch and SpaceX Force were featured on WESH 2 News NBC TV News Orlando, WFTV Channel 9 ABC TV News Orlando and Channel 6 CBS News Orlando on the Jan. 6, 7 and 8 evening and overnight news programs multiple times.

wftv.com https://wesh.com

https://www.wftv.com/news/local/brevard-county/falcon-9-rocket-set-launch-cape-canaveral/K5XCONPOLNAAFJPP27XFGNTBAQ/

First rocket launch of 2020 from Space Coast set for Monday night

Watch my Channel 6 CBS TV News Orlando comments here on Starlink sighting opportunities and potential harm to astronomical observations:

https://www.wftv.com/news/local/brevard-county/falcon-9-rocket-set-launch-cape-canaveral/K5XCONPOLNAAFJPP27XFGNTBAQ/

Dr. Ken Kremer/Space UpClose interview comments on SpaceX Starlink mission with WFTV Channel 9 ABC TV News Orlando on Jan. 6, 2020

Watch Ken’s continuing reports onsite for live reporting of upcoming SpaceX and ULA launches in Jan/Feb 2020 at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

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 and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
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Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events

Ken’s upcoming outreach events:

Jan 16/17/18/19: 7 PM, Quality Inn Kennedy Space Center, Titusville, FL. “SpaceX In Flight Abort and Starlink launches Jan 18 & 20. ULA Solar Orbiter Feb 5.” Free. In hotel lobby. Photos for sale

Jan 18: Noon to 5 PM, American Space Museum, Titusville, FL. “SpaceX In Flight Abort and Starlink launches Jan 18 & 20. ULA Solar Orbiter Feb 5.” Free. Photos for sale

Elevated view of fairing catcher ship GO MS TREE and practice fairing inside scooping net docked in front of 4x recycled Starlink Falcon 9 1st stage with 2 landing legs fully retracted on opposite sides and 2 landing legs still deployed down on opposite sides that were eventually fully detached and not successfully retracted at ground pedestal in Port Canaveral, Florida on Jan. 11, 2020 . From Jan. 6 SpaceX Starlink 2 launch. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com 

UpClose look at base of 4x recycled Starlink Falcon 9 1st stage with 2 landing legs fully retracted on opposite sides and 2 landing legs fully detached on opposite sides is tilted and lowered horizontally by two cranes and crews working together around 230 PM EST Jan. 12, 2020 in Port Canaveral, Florida. From Jan. 6 SpaceX Starlink 2 launch. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

 

4x recycled Starlink Falcon 9 1st stage with 2 landing legs fully retracted on opposite sides and 2 landing legs still deployed down on opposite sides that were eventually fully detached and not successfully retracted at ground pedestal in Port Canaveral, Florida on Jan. 11, 2020. From Jan. 6 SpaceX Starlink 2 launch. 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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