Published: Wed, April 17, 2019
Science | By Cecil Little

Center Core of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Rocket Lost at Sea

Center Core of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Rocket Lost at Sea

Mother Nature has splashed cold water over SpaceX's triumphant triple booster landing in the wake of last week's Falcon Heavy rocket launch.

In an April 15 statement, SpaceX said that the booster core, one of three on the Falcon Heavy rocket, was unable to remain upright over the weekend because heavy seas prevented crews from securing the booster to the deck of the droneship Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX has been making excellent progress, but just had its latest bump - having its central Falcon Heavy booster fall over in choppy seas off the coast of Florida.

"As conditions worsened with eight to ten foot swells, the booster began to shift and ultimately was unable to remain upright". While we had hoped to bring the booster back intact, the safety of our team always takes precedence.

A step further, the US Air Force recently indicated that Falcon Heavy Flight 3 - carrying its Space Test Program 2 (STP-2) rideshare mission - would indeed reuse both of this launch's side boosters but would feature a brand new center core.

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Even with the loss of the center core, it doesn't overshadow the milestone of SpaceX landing all three of the Falcon Heavy's boosters. The barge usually grabs onto the core using what SpaceX calls the Octograbber, but it wasn't used this time.

Falcon Heavy is reportedly the most powerful rocket in operation.

A tweet made by Tim "The Everyday Astronaut" Dodd reported that the core booster of the Falcon Heavy rocket that launched April 11 has been lost to the sea.

Thursday's flight was only the second of a Falcon Heavy rocket and the first with a paying customer's cargo aboard.

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Separately, the two fairings that housed the satellite were also recovered.

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. Whatever it was that caused SpaceX to build two Falcon Heavy Block 5 center cores almost back to back, that foresight or luck now means that B1055's untimely demise should have little to no impact on SpaceX's launch manifest, including the imminent STP-2 mission. He said SpaceX could use the fairing again on an upcoming mission.

SpaceX is now testing a system to recover the fairings of its Falcon 9 rockets.

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