On April 11, SpaceX successfully landed the Falcon Heavy rocket’s three first stages during the launcher’s mission, however, choppy waters caused a slight problem after touchdown: The company’s team was not able to secure the center core booster due to rough sea conditions.
During the Falcon Heavy rocket mission, two of the boosters arrived back on land, while the center core landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship off the Florida coast, Engadget reported. Despite a good landing, the central core booster didn’t come home in one piece, since large swells caused it to shift on the drone ship’s journey back to shore.
“Over the weekend, due to rough sea conditions, SpaceX’s recovery team was unable to secure the center core booster for its return trip to Port Canaveral,” SpaceX told The Verge in an emailed statement on Tuesday. “As conditions worsened with 8- to 10-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. We do not expect future missions to be impacted.”
Falcon Heavy’s center core has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship! pic.twitter.com/pNqwMWr50d
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 11, 2019
Even though the triple rocket landing went smoothly, the center core unfortunately fell into the ocean and was lost to rough seas on its way back to the Florida coast. SpaceX does have solutions, including a robot dubbed the “octagrabber” that secures onto the base of boosters if rockets land in water, but the Falcon Heavy situation was another case. Because the center core is connected to two side boosters, it has a different design compared to a normal Falcon 9 booster, so the octagrabber can’t grasp onto it well.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 12, 2019
Despite the center core booster issue, the Falcon Heavy successfully launched its first paid mission and deployed Arabsat-6A, a communications satellite that will provide internet services to people who live in Africa, some parts of Europe, and the Middle East.
SpaceX can’t retrieve the lost center booster, however, it aims to use the two outer boosters that touched down on land for Falcon Heavy’s next mission, which will take place in a couple of months.
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