San Pedro welcomes SpaceX’s Falcon 9 first stage
After a triumphant return-to-flight conducted on Jan. 14, the first stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 (1029) rocket began its journey home with its entry into the port at San Pedro, California, on Tuesday.
The Falcon 9’s first stage was brought in from the Pacific Ocean to the AltaSea marine research facility across from the Cabrillo Marina in the early hours of Jan. 17. The early arrival did not discourage space enthusiasts who waited for the stage’s return.
While this might have been the first time that a Falcon 9’s first stage has been brought in to port – it is not the first time that SpaceX hardware has graced the Los Angeles waterfront (according to the Daily Breeze) in the past. The cargo version of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft has arrived here after its successful missions delivering and returning cargo, crew supplies, and experiments to and from the International Space Station.
To ensure that the 156-foot (47-meter) tall rocket does not fall over, it was welded to the Just Read the Instructions Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) that it touched down on (according to a report appearing on Daily Breeze) out in the Pacific.
SpaceX had encountered a bit of a setback on Sept. 1, 2016, when another Falcon 9 exploded at one of their East Coast launch sites (Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40).
After a roughly four-month long investigation with partners that included NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the U.S. Air Force, SpaceX felt that they had enough of a handle on the problem and moved forward with the launch of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites this past Saturday.
The launch was only the third that Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX has conducted from its facilities located at Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Space Launch Complex 4E (East). While this might have marked the first time that one of the stages returned on the U.S. West Coast, SpaceX has had four successful drone ship landings on the Of Course I Still Love You ASDS after East Coast launches.
When one includes the landings that SpaceX has conducted at Cape Canaveral’s Landing Zone 1 (formerly Space Launch Complex 13), the NewSpace firm has now recovered 7 Falcon 9 stages that have successfully completed their first missions. Some of these will now be used to carry out additional flights.
SpaceX is preparing to conduct the first flight of a stage that has been recovered with the planned February launch of the SES-10 telecommunications satellite. According to a report appearing on SpaceFlight Now, the roughly 11,700 lbs (5,300 kilograms) spacecraft has arrived at Cape Canaveral and is now being fueled and readied for flight.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.