SpaceX Loses Falcon Heavy's Center Booster Due to Rough Seas

17 April, 2019, 10:31 | Author: Bridget Leonard
  • A close-up of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket during launch

On Thursday, SpaceX landed three of its booster rockets in one very impressive feat.

According to SpaceX, "Over the weekend, due to rough sea conditions, SpaceX's recovery team was unable to secure the center core booster for its return trip to Port Canaveral".

Two of the boosters, landed off the Florida coast, successfully made their way back home. Unable to remain upright, the rocket tipped over and fell into the ocean.

'While we had hoped to bring the booster back intact, the safety of our team always takes precedence. "We do not expect future missions to be impacted" by the loss of the Arabsat booster, Gleeson said. Preventable hardware destruction aside, this should development should not detract from the critical fact that both side boosters - B1052 and B1053 - are safe and sound at SpaceX's Cape Canaveral Landing Zone (LZ), and should still be able to support Falcon Heavy Flight 3 without delay. The barge usually grabs onto the core using what SpaceX calls the Octograbber, but it wasn't used this time. SpaceX has efficient robots created to recover its Falcon 9 boosters - the "octagrabber" - but the core booster had a different configuration that doesn't latch on to the base of any booster except the Falcon 9's (for now). All three of the rocket's first stage cores landed safely shortly after they had completed their part of the mission to send the Arabsat-6A communications satellite into orbit.


The three rocket cores are fixed together during liftoff and are created to break apart after launch and guide themselves back to safe landings: The two side boosters conduct synchronized touchdowns on ground pads in Florida, while the center booster aims for an autonomous seaborne platform, called a droneship.

After liftoff, CEO Elon Musk confirmed that the rocket's fairing halves - or nose cone that protects the spacecraft - were recovered and will be used for an internal mission known as "Starlink" later this year. Falcon Heavy's core doesn't have the same setup so it could not be nailed down.

The fall was a hiccup in an otherwise successful mission - the company's first use of Falcon Heavy since its debut flight in February 2018.

SpaceX recovered a payload fairing for the first time in 2017.

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