SpaceX Retracts All 4 Recycled Falcon 9 Starlink Landing Legs for Cape Transport after Craning Off OCISLY Droneship: Photos

SpaceX Retracts All 4 Recycled Falcon 9 Starlink Landing Legs for Cape Transport after Craning Off OCISLY Droneship: Photos
All 4 SpaceX Falcon 9 landing legs are fully retracted against booster core and stand vertical on work pedestal on April 28, 2020 beside Liebherr crane prior to lowering to horizonal at Port Canaveral, FL. From Starlink 6 launch Apr 22 from Space Launch Complex-39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM

PORT CANAVERAL, FL – Despite a slightly harder landing than normal landing on the OCISLY droneship minutes after last weeks Starlink mission blastoff on Apr. 22, SpaceX workers successfully retracted all four of the recycled Falcon 9 1st stage landing legs in a single afternoon in Port Canaveral on Tuesday April 28, after craning it off the sea landing platform onto land in the early morning hours.

By 5:30 PM ET Tuesday all four legs had been successfully retracted flush up against the sooty booster’s external core and it made for a remarkable sight to behold. See our photos.

Truly the Falcon 9 booster success made for a bright ray of hope amidst all the COVID-19 related closures which resulted in the bustling Port being nearly deserted in the ongoing efforts to flatten the exposure curve and save peoples lives from a virus against which to that day we have no treatments or vaccines.

UpClose view shows all 4 SpaceX Falcon 9 landing legs fully retracted against booster core and standing vertical on work pedestal on April 28, 2020 beside Liebherr crane prior to lowering to horizonal at Port Canaveral, FL. From Starlink 6 launch Apr 22 from Space Launch Complex-39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Enjoy our Space UpClose photo gallery of the Falcon 9 booster 1051.4 standing both vertical and resting horizonal throughout this week of the SpaceX crane crew efforts on at Port Canaveral.

Check back as the gallery grows.

Crane crews retract left landing leg first on April 28, 2020 at Port Canaveral, FL. From Starlink 6 launch Apr 22 from Space Launch Complex-39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

The booster appeared to have a slight tilt as it arrived back home and was towed into Port Canaveral on Sunday morning Apr. 26 and berthed at the droneships normal northside berthing port at North Cargo Pier 6 – – and it was resting slightly lower on deck with the landing legs slightly deflected downwards after touchdown but still high enough so as to apparently not damage the Merlin 1D engines.

UpClose mid-air view all 4 SpaceX Falcon 9 1st stage landing legs fully deployed and 9 Merlin 1D engines during craning off OCISLY droneship onto ground pedestal on April 28, 2020 using Liebherr crane at Port Canaveral, FL. From Starlink 6 launch Apr 22 from Space Launch Complex-39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

The next step was to attach the hi tech booster lifting cap and hoist the recovered 1st stage off OCISLY using the giant Liebherr crane and place it onto land on a ground pedestal for retraction or removal of the four landing legs.

But on Monday the cranes crew had to abort two attempts to attach the booster hoisting cap to the top of the 156 foot tall Falcon 9 first stage – quit possibly due to high winds – as I witnessed.

The SpaceX team did successfully attach the hoisting cap by early Tuesday morning.

Then they craned the booster 1051.4 in 2 stages off OCISLY docked in the Port Channel and onto the ground pedestal at the northside berthing port at North Cargo Pier 6 – In stage 1 from OCISLY onto land at about 915 AM. And then in stage 2 from land onto the pedestal at North Cargo Pier 6 for leg retraction.

Mid-air view shows 4 SpaceX Falcon 9 1st stage landing legs fully deployed and 9 Merlin 1D engines during craning off OCISLY droneship onto ground pedestal on April 28, 2020 using Liebherr crane at Port Canaveral, FL. From Starlink 6 launch Apr 22 from Space Launch Complex-39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

The leg retraction work using the booster hoisting device began around 1:30 p.m. EST Tuesday afternoon, Apr 28.

Crews attached the rope lines to the tip of the landing pad and then commanded the leg raising using the booster lift and leg retraction cap device bolted to the top of the recycled booster.

Crane crews retract right landing leg seond on April 28, 2020 at Port Canaveral, FL. From Starlink 6 launch Apr 22 from Space Launch Complex-39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

The leg retraction work started with the left leg in one nearly continuous operation that took roughly 30 minutes.

Crane crews retract back landing leg third on April 28, 2020 at Port Canaveral, FL. From Starlink 6 launch Apr 22 from Space Launch Complex-39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

The port crane crew then proceeded to the right leg, followed by the back leg. Each operation appeared to go well taking some 20 to 30.

But the team encountered significant issues with the front leg starting around 330 p.m. After retracting the leg most of the way they had to lower it all the way back down. The up again and back and forth 4 more times- before finally succeeding after more than a hour of labor after 5 p.m.

Crane crews retract front landing leg last on April 28, 2020 at Port Canaveral, FL. From Starlink 6 launch Apr 22 from Space Launch Complex-39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

 

Thereafter the SpaceX team tilted and lowered the booster onto the wheeled transporter and attached ring clamps to secure it in place.

Techs attach ring clamps to recovered Falcon 9 with 4 retracted landing legs resting atop wheeled transporter on April 29, 2020. From Starlink 6 launch Apr 22 from Space Launch Complex-39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

On Wednesday they placed a hood over the top and transported it back to the Cape later in the day.
Picture perfect liftoff of the 7th Starlink commercial mission took place Wednesday at 3:31 EDT, (1930:30 GMT), April 22 from seaside Launch Complex-39A (LC-39A) on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL.

Techs attach ring clamps to recovered Falcon 9 with 4 retracted landing legs resting atop wheeled transporter on April 29, 2020. From Starlink 6 launch Apr 22 from Space Launch Complex-39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

This recycled Falcon 9 first stage B1051 launched for the fourth time with recycled payload fairings as well.

Crane crews attach hood ring clamps to recovered Falcon 9 with 4 retracted landing legs resting atop wheeled transporter on April 29, 2020. From Starlink 6 launch Apr 22 from Space Launch Complex-39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

The payload comprises the seventh batch of 60 SpaceX built and owned Starlink broadband satellites launching to LEO with an overall mass of about 7.7 tons.

SpaceX is currently the owner of the largest fleet of Earth orbiting satellites – already numbering 360 Starlink satellites delivered to orbit earlier – and now 420 following the Apr 22 successful deployment of 60 more after all went well.

SpaceX Falcon stunning liftoff on 7th Starlink mission from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL at 3:31 p.m. April 22, 2020 – from pad 39A remote camera. Credit: Jean Wright/spaceupclose.com

Watch Ken’s continuing reports onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Starlink, Solar Orbiter, In-Flight Abort, Mars 2020 and more 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

Falcon 9 1st stage booster landed atop “Of Course I Still Love You” (OCISLY) droneship is towed by tug Finn Falgout and SpaceX fleet into Port Canaveral channel early morning Apr. 26, 2020 as pleasure boats sail by – 4 days after SpaceX Starlink 6 launch Apr. 22 from Space Launch Complex-39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

 

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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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