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Center Core of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Rocket Lost at Sea

17 April 2019

The core that was lost at sea flew on April 11, which was the second flight for the Falcon Heavy rocket.

The booster rocket had successfully touched down on the SpaceX drone ship - called Of Course I Still Love You - but came crashing down after the vessel was hit by swells of up to three metres (10 feet) on its way back to base. SpaceX has been making excellent progress, but just had its latest bump - having its central Falcon Heavy booster fall over in choppy seas off the coast of Florida.

"Over the weekend, due to rough sea conditions, SpaceX's recovery team was unable to secure the center core booster for its return trip to Port Canaveral", SpaceX said in a statement to The Verge. SpaceX said that the rough seas with swells from eight to ten feet made the booster begin to shift on the platform and it was unable to remain upright. While we had hoped to bring the booster back intact, the safety of our team always takes precedence.

SpaceX has developed a robotic system, colloquially known as "Octograbber", to secure Falcon 9 booster cores that land on droneships. They have a robot named "octagrabber" that apparently can't grab onto the FH center core.

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White House press secretary Sarah Sanders speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 11, 2019, in Washington . And they were doing it hypocritically, since this is the kind of thing each side tends to hate when the other side does it.

The three rocket cores are fixed together during liftoff and are created to break apart after launch and guide themselves back to safe landings: The two side boosters conduct synchronized touchdowns on ground pads in Florida, while the center booster aims for an autonomous seaborne platform, called a droneship. Because the center core is connected to two side boosters, it has a different design compared to a normal Falcon 9 booster, so the octagrabber can't grasp onto it well. SpaceX may even be able to recover the booster's four valuable titanium grid fins and salvage additional hardware, depending on how much of the rocket remained intact and attached to OCISLY. Unfortunately, things didn't go well for the recent recovery of the Falcon Heavy center core.

Falcon Heavy Flight 3 is now scheduled to launch the USAF STP-2 mission no earlier than late June, with current information available to a major customer with satellites aboard pointing towards NET June 22. He said SpaceX could use the fairing again on an upcoming mission.

The SpaceX droneship is now on its way back from the Atlantic.

Center Core of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Rocket Lost at Sea