For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM
PORT CANAVERAL, FL – Following Sunday’s sterling morning return of the 2x flown Falcon 9 1st stage into Port Canaveral on Sept. 6 towed triumphantly atop the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ (OSICLY) droneship and taking a few days break for Labor Day and weather the SpaceX crane crew resumed work on Wednesday morning, Sept. 9 with the booster still vertical on the landing ship.
The ‘flight-proven’ Falcon 9 1st stage had originally launched from pad 39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Thursday morning, Sept. 3, from the Florida Space Coast with the goal of delivering the 12th batch of SpaceX’s Starlink constellation of broadband internet satellites to low earth orbit.
Since the 16 story booster was still raised vertical atop OCISLY with all 4 landing legs fully deployed and held in place only by the octagrabber device over the holiday weekend – the first order of business for the crane crew was to attach the hoisting cap Wed. morning to hold the 1st stage firmly in place since nothing further could be done with the landing legs.
So the crane crew swung into action using the giant German-made Liebherr around 11 a.m. ET Sept. 9 to grab hold of the booster hoisting cap and gradually manipulate it to the top of the 16 story tall 1st stage
The crane operator then paused before noon for more than half an hour with the cap near the top.
Finally work resumed around 12:15 p.m. and the hoisting cap was joined atop by 12:25 p.m. and bolted in place to booster B1060.2 at the North Cargo Pier at Port Canaveral.
Thereafter the teams began working to ready the legs for raising and ready the octagrabber for detachment from the base of 156-foot-tall booster.
The leg and octagrabber preparation process consumed several hours.
The team then raised the rear leg almost out of sight around 3:30 p.m. ET and completed their work for the day Wednesday afternoon with only 1 leg up – as poor summer afternoon weather approached.
The crane crew resumed retraction work Thursday morning, Sept 10.
Crews attached a pair of cables to a lifting bracket sequentially attached to the end of each leg that was then hoisted with the German manufactured Liebherr crane.
They started Thursday with the front leg which was easily retracted as the second of the four and completed by 9 a.m. – thus 2 up and 2 down at this point.
Next they shifted focus to the left side third leg.
After partially raising this third leg on the left about halfway further progress was abruptly halted by 10 a.m.
Here they encountered some significant difficulties while raising it in fits and starts as the crane crew intervened to inspect up close – hoisted on jig lifts.
In the end they had to fully lower the left leg to fully deployed position by 10:20 a.m.
After about an hour the crew resumed leg raising and finally retraced the left leg ever so gradually. The left leg was at last fully raised by 11:50 a.m. – making 3 up and 1 down
Finally the hard work paid off and the 4th and last landing leg at right was fully retracted during the lunchtime hour by 12:45 p.m.
With all four landing legs at last retracted the booster looked stunning in vertical position on the droneship.
See our Space UpClose gallery of imagery detailing the cap attachment, landing leg retraction work and booster tiling horizontal.
Check back as the gallery grows.
Space Coast winds now began to pick up and dark clouds started rolling in.
So the crane crew set to work on hoisting B1060.2 off OCISLY around 2 p.m. ET
By 2:30 p.m. they began tilting the stage horizontal and then lowering it onto the transporter.
The next day on Friday, Sept 11, the hoisting cap was removed as is always done, the normal black hood placed on top and it was rolled back to the Cape on top of the white wheeled transporter for eventual reuse on a 3rd mission- perhaps by years end.
The Starlink mission began with space enthusiasts being treated to a beautiful breakfast time blastoff with bountiful water reflections amounting to what looked like two Falcon 9s launching simultaneously in opposite directions from many locations ringing the Florida Space Coast for Thursday’s weather delayed liftoff of a ‘flight-proven’ Falcon on Sept. 3 that was originally supposed to open a historic double header of recycled SpaceX Falcon 9 1st stage launches on Sunday, Aug, 30 – carrying the next batch of Starlink internet relay satellites to orbit.
Nine Merlin 1D engines ignited at the appointed time and the 1x recycled Falcon 9 soared to space Thursday, September 3 at 8:46 a.m. EDT (1246 GMT) for launch of SpaceX’s twelfth Starlink mission carrying 60 Starlink broadband satellites to low earth orbit from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Thus overall Thursday’s liftoff was the second Falcon 9 to rocket away in 4 days!
Falcon 9’s first stage previously supported launch of the GPS III Space Vehicle 03 mission in June 2020.
Approximately eight minutes later the Falcon 9’s first stage booster B1060.2 on its second flight relit a subset of its engines and soft landed on the ocean going “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship platform – already waiting in the Atlantic Ocean.
The two stage Falcon 9 rocket stands 229 feet (70 meters) tall.
My prelaunch photos from pad 39A were featured at WKMG CBS 6 TV News Orlando
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