SpaceX hangar hosts four recovered Falcon 9 boosters
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — A recent SpaceX photo showed four of the company’s recovered Falcon 9 first stage cores inside the company’s Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) at KSC’s Launch Complex 39A. The image comes at a time when representatives with SpaceX have revealed when they might attempt to re-fly one of the stages.
The newest resident in the HIF is the Falcon 9 first stage used to help propel the Thaicom 8 communications satellite to a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) on May 27, 2016. The stage was returned to Port Canaveral on June 2 via the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), dubbed Of Course I Still Love You, which the stage successfully landed on less than ten minutes after it had taken flight.
SpaceX is examining these four recovered rockets at the HIF with the ultimate goal of the company’s recovery program being to achieve full and rapid reusability. In order to accomplish this, each recovered stage must be inspected to ensure they are able to fly again. Engineers will then work to determine what elements might need to be replaced.
In the picture above, the rocket on the far left is the one that was recovered during the April CRS-8 mission to the International Space Station. After that, moving right, the next booster is from the JCSAT-14 mission launched in early May. The one with the cap on the interstage is the core used to help propel Thaicom 8.
Finally, on the far right is the very first booster recovered. That stage helped propel 11 Orbcomm-2 satellites to orbit before turning around and returning back to Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, not far from where it launched from—Space Launch Complex 40.
The first recovered stage is in the early process of being cleaned. Its ultimate destination will be the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, where it will be displayed in front of their building.
SpaceX has recently stated that one of the stages could be used on to conduct a mission as early as September or October of this year (2016).
NASA leased LC-39A to SpaceX in 2014 for 20 years. Starting as early as this year, rockets, including the massive Falcon Heavy, and their payloads will be transported from the HIF to the iconic pad via the Transporter Erector.
The launch pad, where many historic Apollo Program and Shuttle missions lifted off from over the better part of the past five decades, could soon support flights of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon as early as mid-2017.
Larry Klaes is an author and freelance journalist specializing in news and educational work on the sciences. Klae's past endeavors include editor of SETIQuest magazine and President of the Boston chapter of the National Space Society (NSS). Klaes joined SpaceFlight Insider in 2016.