Friday, 26 April, 2019

SpaceX's recovered core booster damaged in rough seas

A close-up of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket during launch SpaceX's Center Core Booster for Falcon Heavy Rocket Is Lost at Sea
Sandra Phillips | 17 April, 2019, 10:31

After the successful landing of all three first stages of its Falcon Heavy megarocket last Thursday (April 11) during the huge launcher's first commercial mission, Elon Musk's company met with misfortune in the rough seas.

The booster rocket had successfully touched down on the SpaceX drone ship - called Of Course I Still Love You - but came crashing down after the vessel was hit by swells of up to three metres (10 feet) on its way back to base.

Conditions only got worse after the recovery team loaded the booster onto the ship, with eight to ten-foot waves that shifted and kept the rocket from remaining upright, a report in The Verge said. The connections between the robot and center core aren't compatible like they would be with a standard Falcon 9 booster, but SpaceX is expected to upgrade both in the future. But company sources say that the Octograbber doesn't work on the Falcon Heavy because it has different interfaces that the robot isn't now created to grapple, requiring the use of personnel that could not safely operate in the heavy seas.

The Falcon 9 Heavy lifting off from the historic Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre."While we had hoped to bring the booster back intact, the safety of our team always takes precedence".

SpaceX didn't provide any information on the status of the booster core, including whether it will be retrieved at all. Normally, after a booster lands on the floating platform, it's secured by the so-called Octagrabber.

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SpaceX is the only rocket company that safely lands boosters after launching orbital missions.

SpaceX also recovered the two halves of the payload fairing from the ocean shortly after they splashed down.

In its first flight, Elon Musk sent a Tesla Roadster to orbit around the sun previous year.

While SpaceX does have hardware on its drone ship created to secure first stages - often referred to as a flat "robot" that holds them in place - it was not used for this mission, which successfully took an Arabsat satellite to orbit last Thursday. "We do not expect future missions to be impacted". STP-2 is now scheduled to lift off from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A in June and should mark the third time the massive FH takes to the skies.

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