Tuesday, April 16, 2019

SpaceX's Center Core Booster for Falcon Heavy Rocket Is Lost at Sea

Elon Musk's company successfully landed all three first stages of its Falcon Heavy megarocket last Thursday (April 11) during the huge launcher's first commercial mission. Two of these boosters came back on land and one, the central core, touched down on a "drone ship" in the Atlantic Ocean, off the Florida coast.
But the central booster didn't complete its homeward journey intact: Rough seas claimed that first stage during the drone ship's voyage back to shore, SpaceX said today (April 15).
SpaceX has pulled off two dozen drone-ship touchdowns to date, all but one of them involving first stages of the company's workhorse Falcon 9 rocket. This is the first time the company has lost a landed stage on the way back to port. 
Those rocket scientists have got to turn their minds to a way to reliably tie down their rockets.   Sometimes it's the little stuff that gets you.


  1. Those rocket scientists have got to turn their minds to a way to reliably tie down their rockets.

    Maybe electro-magnets in the landing pad? Rocket lands, magnets switch on. Much larger landing pads would probably help too.

  2. At some point, they said they welded the landing feet to the deck. I wonder if they've stopped doing that for some reason.

    The empty booster is fairly bottom heavy due to more metal down there, but if seas are bad enough I can see it toppling if not secured. This is our season for rough winds from offshore and as far offshore as the recovery drone is, it's not difficult to imagine.

  3. Lost or not, it still counts as a successful landing.

  4. They need to put some sort of de-erector on the ship to lay the rocket down and lower the center of gravity. Will make it easier to tie down, too.

  5. Captain Video never had this problem.

  6. Why land them so far out to sea. If they can land on shore why not 2 miles offshore

    1. The two boosters on either side of the main booster spend their fuel quicker, so they have the ability to be returned to land. The center 1st stage travels farther down range, taking it out of return-to-land range, thus the need for floating landing platforms 'down-range.'

      Hope this makes sense.

      Russia could have done this many moons ago, as they launch over land pretty exclusively. But, well, Russians...

    2. Because of the amount of propellant burned and the velocity at booster separation. If it was an "all out" flight, none of the three could execute a fly-back trajectory. A true "all out" flight wouldn't leave them with enough propellant to land a single booster at all. They'd each burn 100% of fuel on the way up and expend themselves.

  7. I think part of their problem is in using a dumb barge as landing pad. These respond very poorly to oceanic conditions, too shallow drafted and essentially moving in response to every wave. They could look into a much bigger oceanic barge and ballast it down - or they could buy an old semi-submersible drilling rig. Either one is designed to dampen out ocean wave effects and ride stably with much less motion, even under tow. I'd be surprised if they haven't already tried to just install some guy wires about halfway up, this would be the easiest engineering approach to it. Probably the rocket shell isn't designed for the stresses though.

  8. well, it is called a drone barge because there is no on-board crew.I wouldn't want to be on it when this bomb lands on it because there is still fuel and oxidizer on it, and having the experience of boarding a wandering vessel at sea even with a live, fueled missile on it I know it is not something to do on a long term basis.
    the landed rocket assembly is sliding around for lack of surface friction on deck for the landing pads. that thing is moving around very fast. I imagine a welder would be chasing it around a lot. its got to have somewhere on the base of it for the launch hold down bolts, use those to grapple it to the deck, geeze do I have to think of everything around here?
    instead of a flat bottom-cheap,expendable-barge they could use a semi-submerged twin hull to alleviate some of the roll from the sea state. but expensive.