During last night’s short broadcast leading to the abort at T-1:24 seconds of a launch of another 60 Starlink satellites, the company announced that it would not show the video feed from the reused first stage booster as it returned to Earth.
[A] SpaceX engineer revealed that the company would not be broadcasting live feeds from Falcon 9 B1049’s onboard cameras during the launch. The ambiguity of the comment made it impossible to determine if SpaceX was simply choosing to not show those views or if something was wrong with the camera downlink system, while the same engineer-turned-host did go on to state that “all systems are green” moments later.
No explanation for the sudden change – possibly the first webcast in years without live views from booster cameras – was given. Starlink-17 serves as a return-to-flight mission for SpaceX after Starlink-19’s failed landing, during which the rocket’s onboard cameras streamed what appeared to be clearly unusual and possibly off-nominal behavior early on in the landing process.
The article at the link then speculates that maybe SpaceX was worried about that booster’s ability to land (it will be flying its eighth time, same as the booster that failed on the earlier flight).
I am very skeptical of that theory, especially because SpaceX has never shown a reluctance to show the public its failures. Instead, I think SpaceX has decided to do an engineering test of that booster during its return, and for propriety reasons wants to keep this from public eyes. If so, the test itself might also mean they are willing to lose this booster during that test.
During the early days of their program to reuse boosters, they sometimes had the returning 1st stage do some very stressful maneuvers, producing very spectacular light shows when launched from Vandenberg on the California coast. It could be they want to test this older booster on its eighth flight in a similar manner, in order to reassess their engineering and thus make it possible to upgrade and extend the re-usability of later boosters.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
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