SpaceX loses Falcon Heavy core booster

Mindy Sparks
April 18, 2019

The center core landed on a drone ship christened "Of Course I Still Love You", stationed several hundred miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.

According to Musk, the (partial or total) loss of Falcon Heavy B1055 was caused by a combination of bad weather - causing "swells as high as 10 ft (3 m)" - and the surprising fact that SpaceX's robotic rocket grabber had yet to be modified to support Falcon Heavy center cores. "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 precendence". We do not expect future missions to be impacted, ' the firm added. (SpaceX) Despite the struggles of the center core, side boosters B1052 (right) and B1053 (left) are safe and sound, awaiting their next launch.

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's next Falcon Heavy mission, slated for this summer, will use a new center core, so the loss of the core from last week's mission won't affect it. A tweet by SpaceX boss Elon Musk suggests some parts of the rocket might be recovered and used again. Both side boosters returned to Cape Canaveral, Florida, while the core booster landed on a platform hundreds of miles offshore. The vehicle's first launch early a year ago saw the two side boosters land at Cape Canaveral, but the center core ditched into the Atlantic Ocean. The drone ship has an "octograbber" that can latch onto the boosters that land into the water but it was designed for the Falcon 9, which has different boosters.

This Thursday, April 11, 2091 image from video made available by SpaceX shows a Falcon rocket booster shortly after landing on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean off Florida. SpaceX says it will make modifications to the grabber so future missions will be able to employ it. If B1052 and B1053 are in exceptionally good shape, a distinct possibility thanks to their relatively gentle return-to-launch-site (RTLS) recoveries, then that late June date may very well hold.

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