For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM
PORT CANAVERAL, FL – The thrice launched and landed SpaceX Falcon 9 booster from last week’s SpaceX Starlink SkySat launch returned to Port Canaveral and the Space Coast on a beautiful Tuesday morning welcomed by Florida sunshine, bicyclists, birds, boaters, joggers, swimmers, fisherman and space enthusiasts standing proudly atop the “Of Course I Still Love You” (OCISLY) droneship.
This morning’s booster return at 7:15 a.m. ET on June 16 atop OCISLY comes just 9 days after the prior Falcon 9 1st stage return on June 7.
And it continues a remarkable Falcon 9 launch and landing and Port return cadence -counting as the third for SpaceX team in just over two week’s time.
OCISLY was towed by tugboat Finn Falgout in the Atlantic Ocean into the Port Canaveral channel past Jetty Park pier at 7:30 am. ET and accompanied by the SpaceX naval fleet just offshore of the beach.
The 16 story tall booster standing firmly upright on OCISLY sailed swiftly past the Pier and reached the berthing Port as usual some 45 minutes after arrival.
Enjoy our Space UpClose photo gallery of the arrival and docking of the somewhat sooty Falcon 9 booster B1059.3 at the droneships normal northside berthing port at North Cargo Pier 6.
Check back as the gallery grows.
Because of COVID-19 coronavirus safety restrictions the crowds at Jetty Park beach, park and pier were again much smaller than normal – but those gathered were still excited to be on hand to witness this still remarkable arrival and what amounts to a thin stick precision landed atop a small platform in the open seas.
Today’s beautiful weather return stands in stark contrast to last week when the 156-foot-tall booster finally arrived into the mouth of Port Canaveral channel under gloomy skies and delayed by bad sea states and weather.
However this return of 1st stage booster B1059.3 was delayed by incoming ship traffic occupying all the berthing spots.
The ports North Cargo Pier 6, home to the droneship, was completely full on Sunday and Monday following the arrival of both payload fairing halves on the specially designed SpaceX Fleet fairing catcher boats named GO MS TREE and GO MS CHIEF – albeit covered and hidden under big blue tarps – as they sailed into Port Canaveral channel past Jetty Park Pier at about 2 p.m. Sunday, June 14.
GO MS CHIEF led first as lead ship and GO MS TREE followed second close behind.
That was followed by the arrival and docking and hour later of the humongous and rather ugly cargo ship SLNC York.
See our fairing arrival story and photos.
SpaceX also had to relocate the JRTI droneship that arrived last week with another recycled booster from 8th Starlink mission so that OCISLY could dock nearby the giant Liebherr port crane used for booster hoisting and leg retraction operations.
After all that relocating was done and the SLNC York departed late Monday there was finally room for berthing and OCISLY was towed into Port and berthed Tuesday.
With the newly added capability of the availability of two ocean going droneship platforms – JRTI in addition to OCISLY- SpaceX can step its launch and recovery cadence.
Crane crews soon got to work hoisting jig cranes into place so that the workers could disconnect the octograbber and hydraulics.
A few hours later they finally attached the booster lift and leg retraction device.
Thereafter they retracted all the legs while the stage was still on OCISLY – for only the second time following the DM-2 booster return two weeks ago.
Then they hoisted the booster off and lowered it onto the wheeled transported just 10 hours after Port arrival- a new record.
Liftoff of the now thrice-flown SpaceX Falcon 9 booster took place right on Saturday, June 13 at 5:21 a.m. EDT, 921 GMT for launch of its SpaceX’s ninth Starlink mission from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Eight- and one-half minutes later the ‘flight-proven’ booster accomplished a precision guided soft landing touchdown on the “Of Course I Still Love You” (OCISLY) droneship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean about 400 miles (640 km) downrange off the Carolina’s coast- following stage separation from the upper stage that continued upwards to propel the massive payload to low Earth orbit.
SpaceX announced that after reaching orbit the trio of Planet’s SkySats were successfully deployed sequentially beginning about 12 minutes after liftoff, and the 58 Starlink satellites deployed approximately 26 minutes after liftoff.
With this successful launch of Starlink 8 SpaceX’s Starlink constellation now grows to approximately 540 satellites.
Overall the Starlink constellation could eventually number over 12,000 satellites.
SpaceX plans to launch 1 or 2 Starlink missions per month for the foreseeable future.
The goal according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is to provide cost competitive internet services around the globe.
Initial beta test service in the US is expected later this year.
The next SpaceX launch has been retargeted for June 23 at 5:58 p.m. on the 10th Starlink mission from pad 39A at KSC.
Watch Ken’s continuing reports about Commercial Crew and Artemis and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Demo-2, Starlink, X-37B, Solar Orbiter, Mars 2020 and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space 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.
Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events