It turns out that for SpaceX, landing the rocket booster directly onto a droneship in the ocean is the easy part. It is difficult to bring it back to earth.
SpaceX has reported the loss of the first stage Falcon 9 booster, which flew a record 19 times for the company, including a historic mission that launched the company’s first crew to the International Space Station.
Booster 1058 completed its final flight from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday, and as always, the 42.1-meter-long booster landed safely on a waiting droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.
But while returning to base, extreme weather conditions caused the booster to collapse, a portion of which later fell into the sea.
“During transportation back to port this morning, the booster fell onto the droneship due to high winds and waves,” SpaceX explained In a social media post, it said the new Falcon 9 booster has advanced landing legs designed to keep it upright in challenging conditions.
The life-giving rocket of the Falcon fleet completed its 19th and final launch and landing on December 23. This one reusable rocket booster single-handedly launched 2 astronauts and over 860 satellites – a total of 260+ metric tons – into orbit in ~3.5 years. pic.twitter.com/q1ANdGCpEg
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) 26 December 2023
In a separate post, SpaceX executive Kiko Dontchev Said Losing Booster 1058 was extremely disappointing and tragic.
He explained that “when you get a fixed landing position, which causes uneven load on the legs, overturning can occur,” adding that high winds or choppy water “can then cause the booster to warp and slide.” “
Dontchev said that despite the failure, “we will make lemonade out of lemons and learn as much as possible from the historical 1058 on the way to aircraft-like operation.”
This particular booster first flew in May 2020, sending NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the space station in a historic flight in which SpaceX carried a crew for the first time and the end of space. It was also the first astronaut launch from American soil since. Shuttle program in 2011.
Its final flight last week involved the deployment of 23 Starlink satellites for SpaceX’s internet-from-space service.
With SpaceX continuing to increase its launch frequency, it shouldn’t be long before other Falcon 9 boosters set a new flight record, with two boosters having already flown 17 flights and the other two having flown 15 flights.
Sending boosters on multiple flights is key to SpaceX’s success, with the system able to reduce the cost of orbital missions, opening up space access to more companies and organizations.