Video of recovered Falcon 9 first stage on the road

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right or below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

The competition heats up: SpaceX’s recovered Falcon 9 first stage was moved by road back to the company’s testing facility in Florida yesterday, a journey that was recorded by bystanders, including people in a Kennedy Space Center tour bus.

I have embedded the longest video below the fold, because it provides the best closeup view of the booster. Look especially at the booster’s top, where you can see practically no damage. This thing looks ready to fly.



  • Wayne

    Cool video.
    Gives a better perspective of how big the first stage is in reality.

  • Joe

    Wonder how the reliability of the Merlin engines is affected by multiple firings, with the engines having been disposable for all of those launches, realizing that the stresses on a rocket engine are staggering, the metallurgy must be a high priority.

  • Edward

    The Merlin 1D, which they are using on the current Falcon 9 first stages, is made for reusability. Some engines are made to be reusable, such as the Space Shuttle’s main engines. However, just because they can be used more than once, does not mean that they cannot be expended at the end of the first and only use, and that is what Space X has been doing, so far, and what SLS will do with the Space Shuttle’s left over main engines.

    The Merlin 1C, Vacuum engine, need not be designed for reuse, as it is used only on the upper stages, which are intended as one-use rockets, at least so far.

    I agree that metallurgy is a high priority. Merlin 1D rocket engines burn fuel at an equivalent rate of around 5 gigawatts, each. A modern US power plant produces about 1 gigawatt of electricity, meaning that each (relatively small) Merlin engine is the equivalent of five (large) power plants. Merlin 1D engines run at high temperature, high pressure (~60 atmospheres), in a vibrating environment, and generate forces of around 150,000 pounds each. Plus, the lightweight fuel tank is located about a meter from the nine engines.

    The turbopumps that feed each engine burn fuel in order to generate the power to pump the cryogenic oxygen or the room temperature(ish) RP1, so each turbopump operates at high AND low temperatures, higher pressures, with vibrations and a high speed spinning pump impeller.

    My understanding is that the bell of the Merlin 1D is a niobium alloy.

    Although it does not talk much about the materials, the following shows the complexity of the Space Shuttle’s main engines, probably more than you wanted to know:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *