SpaceX CRS-5: Grid-Fins and a Barge
Over the weekend, SpaceFlight Insider reported on Space Exploration Technologies Corporation’s (SpaceX) plans to launch its next International Space Station (ISS) re-supply mission, CRS-5, no earlier than (NET) Dec. 16. In that article we briefly reported on SpaceX’s intentions to fly an upgraded Falcon 9V1.1 (F9) booster and its intention to attempt the first-ever off-shore barge landing of the booster’s first stage. A few more details on the unique aspects of the CRS-5 mission have now been made available.
On Saturday, Nov. 22, SpaceX’s CEO, Elon Musk, revealed, on Twitter, a photo of the CRS-5 F9 booster which depicts the first “flight-version” of grid-fins which will be used to enhance the “precision-landing” capabilities of the first stage.
Musk explained, “grid fins are stowed on ascent and then deploy on reentry for “x-wing” style control. Each fin moves independently for pitch / yaw / roll.” Musk continued, “entry velocity is too high for a precision landing with N2 [nitrogen gas] thrusters alone. Must have aero surfaces for pitch trim.”
In addition, and perhaps most interesting, Musk Tweeted a photo of the much anticipated “barge” on which the first “solid-surface” F9 landing will be attempted. Musk described the vessel as an “autonomous spaceport drone ship,” and stated that the thrusters [on the vessel have been] repurposed from deep see oil rigs [and] hold position within 3m even in a storm.”
Musk went on to describe the vessel as having a “base [of] 300 ft by 100 ft, with wings that extend width to 170 ft. Will allow refuel & rocket flyback in future.”
Just last month, on Oct. 24, Musk revealed that a landing barge was being constructed in Louisiana, and, since that time, speculation has centered around the barge being constructed at the Conrad Shipyard in Morgan City, LA, where NASA’s Pegasus barge is being refurbished and upgraded for use in transporting the first stage of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS).
Stay tuned to SpaceFlight Insider for continuing coverage of SpaceX and its Dec. 16 launch and a landing attempt.
Scott earned both a Bachelor's Degree in public administration, and a law degree, from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. He currently practices law in the Birmingham suburb of Homewood. Scott first remembers visiting Marshall Space Flight Center in 1978 to get an up-close look at the first orbiter, Enterprise, which had been transported to Huntsville for dynamic testing. More recently, in 2006, he participated in an effort at the United States Space and Rocket Center (USSRC) to restore the long-neglected Skylab 1-G Trainer. This led to a volunteer position, with the USSRC curator, where he worked for several years maintaining exhibits and archival material, including flown space hardware. Scott attended the STS - 110, 116 and 135 shuttle launches, along with Ares I-X, Atlas V MSL and Delta IV NROL-15 launches. More recently, he covered the Atlas V SBIRS GEO-2 and MAVEN launches, along with the Antares ORB-1, SpaceX CRS-3, and Orion EFT-1 launches.