SpaceX making third drone landing ship to support future launches

SpaceX is making a third drone-ship for rocket landings. This will help ensure a landing vessel is always available to SpaceX for Florida missions. It can take up to a week to deploy the drone-ship, recover the rocket and return it to port, and that assumes no launch delays. Turnaround times could be even longer once the booster is offloaded in port, and the vessel is prepared for another trip to sea.

SpaceX has landed one of its rocket boosters intact on a drone ship 12 times in 18 attempts to date. The company is 11-for-11 in rocket recovery attempts on land, including the two Falcon Heavy side boosters that returned to Cape Canaveral after launch last week.

The two Falcon Heavy side boosters on the Feb. 6 flight returned to Cape Canaveral landing pads shortly after liftoff. The center core attempted a landing on a drone-ship a few hundred miles east of Cape Canaveral in the Atlantic Ocean, but the rocket ran out of triethylaluminum-triethylborane (TEA-TEB), a chemical mix used to ignite the core stage’s Merlin engines.

Elon Musk said the center core crashed into the sea near the drone ship.

Elon Tweeted “not enough ignition fluid to light the outer two engines after several three engine relights. Fix is pretty obvious.”