Triumphant Sunrise Return to Port Canaveral for 1st 6x Flight-Proven SpaceX Falcon 9: Photos

Triumphant Sunrise Return to Port Canaveral for 1st 6x Flight-Proven SpaceX Falcon 9: Photos
Glorious sunrise arrival of 6x launched/landed SpaceX Falcon 9 1st stage booster atop the OCISLY droneship towed by tug Finn Falgout and SpaceX fleet past Jetty Park Pier into Port Canaveral channel by 8 a.m. ET on Aug. 21, 2020. From 11th Starlink launch Aug. 18 from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida carrying 58 Starlink broadband internet comsats and 3 rideshare SkySats. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM

PORT CANAVERAL, FL –  Looking sootier and sootier but nonetheless stunning while setting a new record-breaking reusability record, the 1st ever 6x ‘flight-proven’ SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage returned to Port Canaveral towed triumphantly atop the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ (OSICLY) droneship on another tremendous sunrise Friday, Aug 21, along Florida’s Space Coast – following SpaceX’s 11th launch expanding the firms Starlink constellation of broadband internet satellites.

The OCISLY droneship and the 6x recovered launched/landed booster B1049.6 at last began her final approach to Jetty Park and Pier just past sunrise at 7:30 a.m. ET towed by tugboat Finn Falgout and welcomed by a small crowd of my media colleagues.

Wide view shows tug Finn Falgout towing 6x launched/landed SpaceX Falcon 9 1st stage booster atop OCISLY droneship with SpaceX fleet into Port Canaveral channel after 8 a.m. ET on Aug. 21, 2020. From 11th Starlink launch Aug. 18 from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Today’s booster dawn arrival was again accompanied by a beautiful hued sky with broken clouds and fantastic Space Coast weather – very luckily warm, dry and calm compared to the torrential downpours inundating the region most of the past week – just like last weeks Starlink return on the 10th mission and Port return barely a week and a half ago on Aug. 10.

Wonderfully water reflecting SpaceX Falcon 9 1st stage booster 6 times to space and back – getting darker and darker. Towed atop OCISLY droneship into Port Canaveral after 8 a.m. ET on Aug. 21, 2020. From 11th Starlink launch Aug. 18 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

In fact this Falcon booster landed on and was towed back by the same pairing of droneship OCISLY and tugboat Finn Falgout as the last time – further demonstrating a remarkably rapid  turnaround of the SpaceX fleet of booster and payload fairing recovery ships for the stepped up cadence of launches from the Space Coast!

Crane crew rapidly attaches hoisting cap to top of record setting SpaceX Falcon 9 booster atop OCISLY droneship shortly after berthing and arrival into Port Canaveral, FL., on Aug. 21, 2020. From 11th Starlink launch Aug. 18 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Liftoff of the veteran, record setting SpaceX Falcon 9 booster B1049.6 took place right on time Tuesday, Aug. 18 at 10:31 a.m. EDT on its eleventh Starlink mission from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Enjoy our Space UpClose photos of the Falcon 9 booster return taken by Ken Kremer.

Check back as the gallery grows.

Wide, elevated view of SpaceX fleet in action in Port Canaveral after arrival and capping of record setting SpaceX Falcon 9 booster atop OCISLY droneship on Aug. 21, 2020. Twin fairing boats GO Ms. Tree and GO Ms. Chief at left, GO Quest in motion between astronaut recovery ships GO Searcher and GO Navigator to left of OCISLY. From 11th Starlink launch Aug. 18 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Falcon 9’s first stage previously supported the Telstar 18 VANTAGE mission in September 2018, the Iridium-8 mission in January 2019, and three separate Starlink missions in May 2019, January 2020, and June 2020.

The booster waited off shore in the Atlantic Ocean overnight until entering the channel past Jetty Park Pier after sunrise around approaching around 8 a.m. ET Fri., Aug. 21

The blackened 16-story tall booster standing firmly upright on OCISLY sailed swiftly past Jetty Park Pier and reached the northside berthing port as usual some 45 minutes after port arrival.

Clueless pleasure boaters oblivious to the marvels of technology sailing by in Port Canaveral upon return of 6x flown SpaceX Falcon 9 booster on Aug. 21. From 11th Starlink launch Aug. 18 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Crane workers then rapidly swung into action using the giant German-made Liebherr by 8:40 a.m. to gab hold of the booster hoisting cap before the droneship was finished berthing and manipulate it to the top of the 16 story tall blackened 1st stage.

The crane operator easily completed the hoisting cap attachment to the top of the booster 30 minutes later by 9:10 a.m.

Up Close view of 4 landing legs as crane crew detaches octagrabber from base of SpaceX Falcon 9 before hoist off OCISLY droneship on Aug. 21 onto ground pedestal just 2.5 hours after Port Canaveral return. From 11th Starlink launch Aug. 18 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Thereafter the teams began detaching the octagrabber arms from the base of 156-foot-tall booster.

Crane crew hoists SpaceX Falcon 9 off OCISLY droneship on Aug. 21 and onto ground pedestal with 4 landing legs and 8 Merlin 1D engines in view just 2.5 hours after Port Canaveral return. From 11th Starlink launch Aug. 18 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

An hour later they were already hoisting the record setting booster off OCISLY onto the ground work pedestal.

UpClose view 9 Merlin 1D engines and 4 landing legs and crane crew for perspective as 1st ever 6x launched SpaceX Falcon 9 is hoisted off OCISLY droneship on Aug. 21 and onto ground pedestal just 2.5 hours after Port Canaveral return. From 11th Starlink launch Aug. 18 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

By 11 a.m. the hoisting process was completed, and the workers climbed up the pedestal to completely secure the booster and start operation to retract the landing legs.

UpClose view 9 Merlin 1D engines and 4 landing legs and crane crew for perspective as 1st ever 6x launched SpaceX Falcon 9 is hoisted off OCISLY droneship on Aug. 21 and onto ground pedestal just 2.5 hours after Port Canaveral return. From 11th Starlink launch Aug. 18 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
Up Close view of 4 landing legs as crane crew begins preps for leg retraction work at base of 1st ever 6x launched SpaceX Falcon 9 after hoist off OCISLY droneship on Aug. 21 onto ground pedestal just 2.5 hours after Port Canaveral return. From 11th Starlink launch Aug. 18 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

So given the rapid start it seemed like they would complete the leg retractions today before bad weather rolled in.

All legs Down ! Up Close view. Very surprising all 4 landing legs from 1st 6x launched SpaceX Falcon 9 remained down and deployed at end of work day Aug. 21 despite crane crew leg retraction preparation processing. After truly fast start of attaching hoisting cap and craning off OCISLY following morning return to Port Canaveral atop droneship from 11th Starlink mission launched Aug. 18, 2020. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

To my great surprise the SpaceX workers did not proceed much further despite using the jig lifts to work on the booster core and lower the hoisting cables from the hoisting cap around noontime.

All legs Down ! Wide view. Very surprising all 4 landing legs from 1st 6x launched SpaceX Falcon 9 remained down and deployed at end of work day Aug. 21 despite crane crew leg retraction preparation processing. After truly fast start of attaching hoisting cap and craning off OCISLY following morning return to Port Canaveral atop droneship from 11th Starlink mission launched Aug. 18, 2020. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

After some prep work for retractions the team concluded their work for the day

No leg retractions were even attempted and the crews appeared to depart by mid-afternoon Friday.

So at the end of the work shift all 4 landing legs remained down at 5 p.m. and the leg retractions will have to wait for another day TBD – and poor weather never rolled in until after 6 p.m. Friday.

The mission payload included 58 SpaceX Starlink internet satellites and three of Planet’s Earth optical imaging SkySats as the third rideshare payload.  All satellites successfully deployed to low Earth orbit (LEO).

The ever expanding Starlink constellation now numbers approximately 553 refrigerator sixed broadband satellites aimed at serving rural and underserved areas across the globe.

The Falcon 9 1st stage separated as planned two and a half minutes into flight.

The 15 story tall stage then carried out a precision guided propulsive descent by reigniting a subset of the Merlin’s and successfully landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” (OCISLY) droneship for the sixth time about eight and a half minutes after liftoff.

Droneship OCISLY was waiting at its stationing position some 400 mi (640 km) north east of KSC off the coast of the Carolina’s with a football field sized platform.

Watch my post launch commentary about the Aug. 18 Starlink, SkySat launch at Wesh 2 NBC News Orlando and WFTV ABC Channel 9 TV News Orlando

https://www.wesh.com/article/rocket-launch-planned-for-tuesday-morning/33633393

Ken Kremer/Space UpClose SpaceX Starlink launch commentary featured on WESH 2 NBC News Orlando on Aug 18, 2020 – screenshot

Watch my Aug. 14 guest host and Aug 3 interview appearances at ‘Stay Curious’ show at the American Space Museum about successful Mars Perseverance launch, successful splashdown SpaceX Crew Dragon on Demo-2 1st commercial mission as well as upcoming Crew-1, Artemis Moon mission, SpaceX Starlink and more:

https://www.facebook.com/SpaceWalkOfFame/videos/2690117104638099/

https://www.facebook.com/SpaceWalkOfFame/videos/594560917928307/

Spectators marvel at Aug. 21 arrival of 6x recycled SpaceX Falcon 9 1st stage booster atop OCISLY droneship from a short distance away across Port Canaveral channel. From 11th Starlink launch Aug. 18 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

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.
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Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events

Aug 24//25 – 7 PM: Quality Inn Kennedy Space Center, Titusville, FL. “ULA Delta IV Heavy, NASA Mars 2020 rover and SpaceX Crew-1, Demo-2, GPS, Starlink and more launches.” Free. In hotel lobby. Photos for sale

Glorious sunrise arrival of 6x launched/landed SpaceX Falcon 9 1st stage booster atop the OCISLY droneship towed by tug Finn Falgout and SpaceX fleet past Jetty Park Pier into Port Canaveral channel by 8 a.m. ET on Aug. 21, 2020. From 11th Starlink launch Aug. 18 from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida carrying 58 Starlink broadband internet comsats and 3 rideshare SkySats. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
Wide view shows tug Finn Falgout towing 6x launched/landed SpaceX Falcon 9 1st stage booster atop OCISLY droneship with SpaceX fleet into Port Canaveral channel after 8 a.m. ET on Aug. 21, 2020. From 11th Starlink launch Aug. 18 from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
Glorious sunrise arrival of 6x launched/landed SpaceX Falcon 9 1st stage booster atop the OCISLY droneship towed by tug Finn Falgout and SpaceX fleet past Jetty Park Pier into Port Canaveral channel by 8 a.m. ET on Aug. 21, 2020. From 11th Starlink launch Aug. 18 from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida carrying 58 Starlink broadband internet comsats and 3 rideshare SkySats. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
Clueless pleasure boaters oblivious to the marvels of technology sailing by in Port Canaveral upon return of 6x flown SpaceX Falcon 9 booster on Aug. 21. From 11th Starlink launch Aug. 18 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
Crane crew rapidly attaches hoisting cap to top of record setting SpaceX Falcon 9 booster atop OCISLY droneship shortly after berthing and arrival into Port Canaveral, FL., on Aug. 21, 2020. From 11th Starlink launch Aug. 18 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
Wide, elevated view of SpaceX fleet in action in Port Canaveral after arrival and capping of record setting SpaceX Falcon 9 booster atop OCISLY droneship on Aug. 21, 2020. Twin fairing boats GO Ms. Tree and GO Ms. Chief at left. Astronaut recovery ships GO Searcher and GO Navigator to left of OCISLY. From 11th Starlink launch Aug. 18 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. 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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