Falcon 9 booster returns to port

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The competition heats up: The third first stage recovered by SpaceX, and the second in a row, has returned to port.

The link has several nice pictures of the booster, one at sea as it approaches port, and the second on the drone, showing the scorching on the stage’s upper body.


  • Frank

    In the landing video posted by SpaceX I noticed what looked like a stream of water directed at the rocket’s base coming from a fire suppression system. A flame continued for some time after the engines shut off as the water stream was moved around to find its target, but it doesn’t look like the suppression was effective, at least while the camera was running.

    I wondered if 1) the flame seen was normal or 2) if there was any damage. I also wonder if SpaceX used saltwater in the stream of water that could be seen, and if so, what potential for damage that could cause to the rocket.

    From these most recent images, the landing at sea looks like it introduces some clean-up and reuse challenges for SpaceX.

  • Edward


    It looks to me that one of the legs caught fire at the moment of landing, but the flames seemed to extinguish themselves. I suspect that this is not normal.

    The flame that continues to come from the rocket engine is called “residual.” My understanding is that at engine shutdown, there is still some fuel and oxidizer in the plumbing from the turbopump to the combustion chamber, and it takes a few seconds to burn off.

    In these three views, I did not see a stream of water, though, Frank. Could you please reply with the link you have? I would like to see what you saw. However, a barge of that size could easily carry a water supply that would be less corrosive than salt water.

  • Frank

    Edward, it’s in the original spaceX broadcast at http://www.spacex.com/webcast
    The water comes in at the 30:52 mark.

  • Edward

    Thank you, Frank. It looks like I missed an interesting development the first time I watched. It is hard to say what the purpose of that was, but fire suppression is a good guess. It may also be an attempt to make the barge safe for a crew to come on board to secure the rocket to the deck (if that is a distinction).

    Fire suppression on a pad can be important. A few years back, I saw a video of a small hopper of a rocket catch fire on landing, and remotely controlled nozzles sprayed foam onto the pad. I think this was Armadillo Aerospace.

    I remember that couple of decades ago a test hybrid rocket tipped over and lay there burning for a while as the engineers figured out how to put out the fire in the solid fuel section.

    And, of course, SpaceX has had a few opportunities to test their own fire suppression system on their barges.

  • Alex

    Edward, you refer to AMROC’s large hybrid rocket launch attempt in 1989. I forgot the name of the rocket. The iced LOX valve did open only partly, which prevent vehicle’s lift-off, so that the vehicle burned down at the pad, however without any explosion.

  • Wayne

    We probably don’t agree on politics to a huge degree, but I for one enjoy your input on Space, Rockets, Science, etc. indeed, “everything.”
    (I try, to pay attention to smart people, even if we don’t vote alike.)

  • Edward

    Thanks for the company name and the date. I didn’t remember it being in the 1980s, and I was too lazy, yesterday, to look up either event. I remember that it didn’t explode, but I didn’t remember that it “burned to the waterline.”

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