SpaceX Falcon Heavy Landed Center Core But Lost to High Seas

SpaceX had successfully landed the Falcon Heavy center core but the center core fell over and into the sea due to large waves.

SpaceX was able to recover the two side boosters and the payload fairing.

There were eight to ten-foot swells and the booster was unable to remain upright.

SpaceX uses an Octagrabber robotic system to stabilize and hold recovered Falcon 9 boosters. However, the center core has a different shape which did not work with the Octograbber.

SOURCES – twitter
Written By Brian Wang,

47 thoughts on “SpaceX Falcon Heavy Landed Center Core But Lost to High Seas”

  1. That’s a real shame, especially since the center booster is the expensive one(modified). Seems to me instead of an octagrabber that is not universally applicable, there should be a quadrapod grabber that is.

    SpaceX workers used to secure the feet with cables, and then weld the feet to the deck, after the landing. I wonder why the didn’t do that, since they must have known the normal method of securing the booster was not available? This loss was foreseeable, and completely preventable. SpaceX management may be slipping.

  2. A bigger barge with a big crane to lower it on it’s side, and other tooling. That’s my solution. Yes spend some money, money well spent.

  3. So, for this operation, an oversight by the overseers of the octograbber occurred and the object overbalanced overnight and is in the ocean to be occupied only by octopi, possibly originating an obscenity on this occasion, although officially and outwardly no one overreacted.

  4. My guess, only a guess: the first center core was not to be
    reused, only tore down for inspection, so it didnt matter
    if it was fished from the sea, next time grabber will fit.
    The nose cone was a completely unuseful PR prop, only
    an exercise in steel welding.

  5. Checking the grabber for fit doesn’t take that long, and should cost a lot less than loosing the center core (also much faster than building a new one). Looks to me like they got over-confident and complacent, or just too used to loosing a core once in a while.

    I’m willing to give them just a little slack, since this may be a detail that’s easy to miss, but it’s not something they should’ve missed if they were more thorough. Same thing with loosing the StarHopper nose cone. They’re so focused on being agile, that they end up cutting too many corners.

  6. They had to perfect propulsive landing, and prove reusability and reliability.
    That R&D money had to be spent in any case, since parachutes are not enough on Mars, let alone the Moon.

  7. It can take a couple of days to get to port and I’m not sure sea state forecasts are accurate enough over that scale of time period for it to be feasible to make the call at launch time. Without being able to secure the booster to the deck after landing as with the standard F9 boosters they need appropriately smooth seas for landing and the entire trip back to port. And 10 foot waves aren’t all that large or uncommon.

  8. The booster is mostly empty, and bottom heavy. I don’t think it’s capable of capsizing the barge once it’s anchored to it. But I may be wrong.

  9. I’m rather surprised they didn’t prepare for this in advance. They knew the center core had a different shape well before their previous flight, which itself was more than a year ago. Did really nobody thought to check whether that grabber fits?

  10. Sure – double the width for around 4x the cost. Out-riggers might be a cheaper add-on… Especially if they’re actuated and SpaceX applies some cameras and AI to predict in-coming wave motions…

  11. More likely they’ll just scrub if seas are too high and the customer isn’t willing to pay for the loss of the center core.

  12. If the waves get big enough, it’s going to tip over – and if the rocket is locked to the ship the ship might go with it if it doesn’t release the rocket.

    Assuming they’d rather lose just the rocket, they need a solution to make the landing ship more stable – deployable outriggers? Self-leveling landing pad? Maybe those AND automated lock-down that can release the rocket if the ship is about to go over?

    Or maybe an out-of-box solution, like automation to quickly hook up a fuel line, so the thrusters at the top of the rocket can keep balancing it after landing? Elon tends to like OOB solutions…

  13. The US made a tail-landing plane years ago, with big contra-rotating propellors, that could transition to level flight, but landing it scared the bejeesus even out of their top test pilots.

  14. Yeah, that’s what I meant when I said “came off as a little dismissive”. I realize that for someone who wasn’t around for the previous discussion that my original comment could be seen as a little rude and I didn’t want to be rude about an idea that, on first thoughts, is a good point.

  15. This is brainstorming. I understand that the Apollo carriers
    were a show of strength (which the Soviets couldn’t emulate).

  16. If I came off a little dismissive it’s because the carrier idea has been bounced around a few times previously.

    One point about the barges is that they are unmanned. Another point is that they are (in the context of space launches) cheap. Carriers are a resounding NO for both those points.

  17. Yeah, bad idea. My other idea was to render carriers unuseful by making
    VTOL airplanes that land on their tail using SpaceX technology.

    1. The USN spends money, they don’t earn it. When was the last time they even attempted to save money?
    2. Rental of an aircraft carrier is probably much more expensive than losing the occasional booster.
    3. Elon: “Yo! USN! Can I rent one of your carriers?”
    • USN “What do you want to do?”
    • Elon “Just land a large rocket, filled with explosive fuel, on the flight deck. See sometimes they crash in huge fireballs, so we need somewhere disposable, but flat, and maybe it’ll lose control and slam into the deck with supersonic speed, but…”
    • USN “Ask the Chinese.”
  18. SpaceX have made statements that they looked at parachutes and that they ended up not being the best option.
    I didn’t see actual details of the calculations or anything, but they didn’t just ignore parachutes, they chose not to use them for some reason.

  19. That’s disappointing, crazy to think they can land rockets, but a wave tips it over, or when a gust of wind ruined the nose of the starship…I guess book smarts, isn’t street smarts.

  20. They should rent an aircraft carrier, and land on its deck. I am sure the Navy would
    be glad to earn a little extra money.

  21. Whoopsie!

    Build a landing platform from an oil rig and move the defueled rocket to a transport where it can travel safely home.

  22. I have got a nickel that says spacex will have that fixed for next time, regardless how high the seas.

Comments are closed.