PORT CANAVERAL, FL – Barely two days after last week’s launched and landed SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage arrived back home into Port Canaveral on Monday, Nov. 19, technicians quickly completed all processing work on shore detaching the landing legs, tilting the legless booster 90 degrees from vertical to horizontal and transportation back to the Cape Wednesday, Nov. 21, for eventual reuse on another soar to space - from Florida’s burgeoning spaceport.
This marks another dramatic display of SpaceX’s revolutionary commitment and almost routine implementation of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s oft stated goal to launch, land, recover, recycle, refurbish and reuse ‘flight-proven’ rockets and radically cut the cost of access to space.
Overall it took the SpaceX work team just over 48 hours from the time this recovered Falcon 9 Block 5 first stage from the Es’hail-2 comsat launch arrived at the mouth of Port Canaveral’s channel standing upright on the OCISLY drone ship at noontime Monday to its rotation level to the ground and mid-afternoon Wednesday trip back to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station - just in time for the Thanksgiving holidays.
Perhaps this Block 5 version booster labeled 1047 will fly for a 3rd time in 2019. Musk plans to fly these significantly upgraded Block 5 boosters 10 times with minimal refurbishment in between liftoffs.
Check out my Space UpClose gallery of eyewitness photos detailing virtually all the booster preparatory activities in between except for the leg disassembly carried out after nightfall, in between on Tuesday evening, Nov. 20.
Click back for more photos as the gallery grows.
The photos are dramatically backdropped by NASA’s iconic Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) in these overhead views taken from Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral.
The BLLRD was installed atop the booster on Tuesday morning and was used at lunchtime Tuesday to hoist it off the docked OCISLY from ship to shore onto onto the mounting cradle platform at the Port.
The left side yellow colored crane cable were attached to the BLLRD while the right side while colored crane cable was attached to the base of the booster.
Here are some UpClose sequential views of the BLLRD taken during the processing, tilting, rotation procedure.
|Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com|
Then it was lowered into the transporters two cradles and additional mounting rings attached at front and back to securely clamp it down for the journey back to the Cape.
The BLLRD was carefully detached by the yellow crane crew at about 230 p.m. EST. Thereafter the open to the air booster was hooded with a black tarp at the top.
|Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com|
The square-shaped cage-like BLLRD apparatus was noticeably different Tuesday from its prior incarnation and use on the recovered Telstar 18v booster in September.
The BLLRD was rather stripped down – a good indication that the SpaceX engineers decided to simply dissect off all 4 legs from the start rather than try and retract them experimentally like for Telstar 18v - as CEO Elon Musk said was the ultimate goal to enable quick launch turnaround in as little as 24 hours for the Block 5 version of Falcon 9.
Noticeably absent were the pullies, cables and stabilizers installed on the square shaped cage - which still held the circular hoisting cap, and can be operated remotely. The BLLRD was raised into place by the crane operator around 8 a.m. ET Tuesday and mounted firmly. It is also apparently powered by a trio of solar panels – seen in side views.
In the end, the technicians made no attempt at all to retract the legs. That will have to wait for a future recovered Falcon 9 sometime in 2019.
Landing leg retraction was touted by SpaceX CEO and billionaire founder Elon Musk as a key improvement milestone toward the goal of achieving far faster turnaround of ‘Flight-Proven’ first stages for the significantly improved Block 5 version Falcon 9 vs. the older and now retired Block 4 first stages.
In fact Musk said he aims for his SpaceX team to launch, land and relaunch the same booster within a 24 hour period.
The now twice ‘flight-proven’ and twice ‘ocean-landed’ 1st stage booster was towed into Port Canaveral channel around 12:30 p.m. EST (1730 GMT) Nov. 19, 2018.
Overhead view of SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage booster arrival back into Port Canaveral, FL on Nov. 19, 2018. Portside docking guided by SpaceX Naval fleet atop the ocean going OCISLY droneship platform upon which it landed after launching Es’hail-2 comsat on Nov. 15 from Launch Complex-39A at Kennedy Space Center, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
OCISLY was prepositioned some 400 miles (640 km) off shore in the Atlantic Ocean a few days prior to the scheduled liftoff.
Upon arrival back in Port, the 15-story tall sooty Falcon 9 Block 5 version booster - labeled 1047.2 - was sooty in appearance as usual but not excessively so upon arrival after a sea going voyage of nearly four days and a space going voyage of roughly some four minutes up and four minutes down.
The logos and American Flag stenciled on the side of the booster were also remarkably well preserved.
SpaceX launched the Falcon 9 carrying the six ton Es’hail-2 telecommunications satellite at 3:46 p.m. EST (2046 GMT) Thursday, Nov. 15, from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. This marked the first daytime launch since May from Florida’s spaceport.
This reused booster was previously used to launch the Telstar 19V telecomsat on July 22, 2018 for Canadian-based Telesat.
The 229-foot-tall (70 meters) Falcon 9 successfully delivered the Es’hail 2 satellite for Qatar to its intended geostationary transfer orbit. Subsequently the satellite will be raised to geostationary orbit circling Earth 22,500 miles (36,000 kilometers) over the equator.
The precision guided rocket assisted soft landing of the 156 foot tall booster on OCISLY took place just over eight minutes after launch from KSC. All 4 landing legs successfully deployed in the last seconds.
This landing counts as the 31st successful landing overall and the 18th by sea.
SpaceX’s next launch from Florida is slated for no earlier than Dec. 4 on the Dragon CRS-16 cargo resupply mission for NASA to the International Space Station (ISS).
Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com
Dr. Kremer is a research scientist, journalist and photographer based in the KSC area.
Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events