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Falcon SpaceX

SpaceX Falcon 9 landing leg accidentally dropped during retraction attempt – Teslarati

SpaceX has accidentally dropped one of its newest Falcon 9 booster’s landing legs during a retraction attempt in Port Canaveral while crews worked to prepare the rocket for transport.

Falcon 9 booster B1060 safely arrived in Port Canaveral, Florida on July 4th after a flawless June 30th launch debut, delivering the US military’s GPS III SV03 navigation satellite to an accurate orbit and becoming the first SpaceX rocket to launch and land as part of an operational US military mission. The major landing milestone was supported by drone ship Just Read The Instructions (JRTI) as part of its second East Coast recovery mission ever after an ~8000 km (~5000 mi) journey from Los Angeles and months of slow and steady upgrades.

Thankfully, despite the mishap caught on camera by diligent, unofficial observers, things appeared to work out just fine for booster B1060 as crews threaded recovery operations between bouts of disruptive Florida weather.

Based on video of the accidental leg drop captured by US Launch Report on July 7th, the most obvious conclusion is that operators either failed to release tension on a winch line or some kind of hardware/software/sensor failure unintentionally over-stressed the line. Regardless, around the same time as Falcon 9 or its ground operators were likely commanding the landing leg latch closed, one or both of the lines attached to the top of the retracting leg snapped, causing it to very quickly redeploy as gravity pulled it back to earth.

Almost certainly by design, nobody was underneath the ~1000 kg (~2200 lb) landing leg during retraction, and a small stand used to prop up the leg for winch line installation seems to have been moved out of the line of fire as part of the process. As a result, when the leg was accidentally released, it simply fell onto drone ship JRTI’s flat, steel deck under its own weight. Most importantly, nobody was (visibly) injured or at risk of injury

Jump to ~3:45 to catch one of SpaceX’s 2018 landing leg deployment tests on a recovered booster.

The landing leg’s impact and aftershock looks undeniably harsh in the footage but the reality is that SpaceX has already performed almost identical tests (albeit intentionally) on recovered boosters while leg retraction was still in development. Captured in the video above, B1049’s September 2018 leg retraction and deployment test appeared to be marginally gentler than B1060’s accidental leg smack, and B1049 went on to complete four more orbital-class launches without issue. That still ignores the fact that Falcon 9’s landing legs are designed to withstand extremely rough landings of entire ~30 metric ton boosters traveling up to several meters per second (~5 mph) – vastly more force than a single landing leg can exert on itself with gravity as the only input.

(Richard Angle)

Confirming those suspicions, SpaceX ultimately got back on the saddle after a few slight weather delays and successfully retracted all four of B1060’s landing legs without issue. The once-flown rocket was quickly broken over (referring to the process of lowering it horizontally) and installed on a custom transporter, which will soon move it from Port Canaveral to a nearby SpaceX hangar (likely Pad 39A’s) to prepare for its next launch.

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Astronauts Falcon

Astronauts: Falcon 9 rocket was ‘totally different’ ride than the space shuttle – Fox News

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was a “pure flying machine” compared to the space shuttle, according to the astronauts who rode it into space.

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken piloted the first manned flight of the Falcon 9 on May 30. Each astronaut had previously been on on two space shuttle missions, and they spoke of their surprise at how comparatively smooth the SpaceX launch was.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft during launch May 3src. (NASA/SpaceX)

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft during launch May 30. (NASA/SpaceX)

“From the time the engines lit, the first two-and-a-half minutes to staging was about like we expected, except you can never simulate the Gs, so as the Gs built you could certainly feel those,” Hurley told Spaceflight Now. “What I thought was really neat was how sensitive we were to the throttling of the Merlin engines. That was really neat. You could definitely sense that as we broke Mach 1.”

He added: “We didn’t even need to look at the speed. You could tell just by how the rocket felt, so it’s a very pure flying machine.”

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket climbs into orbit May 3src from the Kennedy Space Center. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket climbs into orbit May 30 from the Kennedy Space Center. Credit: SpaceX

“Remember, [the] shuttle had solid rocket boosters to start with,” Hurley said. “Those burned very rough for the first two-and-a-half minutes. The first stage with Falcon 9 were the nine Merlin engines. It was a much smoother ride, obviously, because it was a liquid engine ascent.”

This photo provided by NASA shows Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, far right, joining the crew at the International Space Station, after the SpaceX Dragon capsule pulled up to the station and docked Sunday, May 31, 2src2src. The Dragon capsule arrived Sunday morning, hours after a historic liftoff from Florida. It's the first time that a privately built and owned spacecraft has delivered a crew to the orbiting lab. (NASA via AP)

This photo provided by NASA shows Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, far right, joining the crew at the International Space Station, after the SpaceX Dragon capsule pulled up to the station and docked Sunday, May 31, 2020. The Dragon capsule arrived Sunday morning, hours after a historic liftoff from Florida. It’s the first time that a privately built and owned spacecraft has delivered a crew to the orbiting lab. (NASA via AP)

Liquid engine ascent is a reference to the mix of super-chilled kerosene and cryogenic liquid oxygen propellants consumed by the Merlin engines.

After the smooth launch, the astronauts said the second stage felt a bit rougher.

“The biggest difference is just the dynamics that are involved, the vibration, the experiences that we felt actually riding a real rocket,” Behnken said.

“It will be interesting to walk with the SpaceX folks to find out why it was a little bit rougher ride on the second stage than it was for shuttle on those three main engines,” Hurley added.

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The Crew Dragon spacecraft was developed to largely function autonomously, handling all prep and docking with the International Space Station following the 19-hour flight.

NASA is also working with Boeing on its manned Starliner capsule, which is expected to launch early next year.

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