Commercial Space

Daylight Arrival Affords Eye-popping view of Radiant SpaceX Recovered Booster Sailing Victoriously into Port Canaveral

Incredible sight of pleasure craft zooming past SpaceX Falcon 9 booster from Thaicom-8 launch on May 27, 2016 as it arrives at the mouth of Port Canaveral, FL, atop droneship platform on June 2, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Port Canaveral, FL- The first ever daylight arrival afforded endless eye-popping views of what can only be described as a truly radiant SpaceX Falcon 9 recovered first stage booster sailing victoriously into Port Canaveral, Florida, at lunchtime today, Thursday, June 2.

The beaming 156 foot tall booster was traveling triumphantly atop the specially designed SpaceX ‘droneship’ aptly named “Of Course I Still Love You” or “OCISLY.”

Because unlike all three prior perfectly erect upright landings, this booster came to rest noticeably titled, perhaps by about 5 degrees.

It was leaning due to the high speed reentry and a touchdown landing speed near the maximum sustainable by the design.

“Rocket landing speed was close to design max,” tweeted SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

That tilt gave it a distinctive character – compared to the other three – as well as significant extra technical work by the SpaceX workers to stabilize it at sea and bring it back safely and not tip over calamitously during the six day long sea voyage back to home port.

“Leaning back due to crush core being used up in landing legs,” Musk explained.

And since Port Canaveral and the Atlantic Ocean are public waterways, the day was filled with incredible scenes on numerous pleasure boats passing by on the seas throughout the day. Since this was the first daytime ocean arrival, there’s never been a scene quite like this.

The booster landed on “OCISLY” on May 27 while it was stationed approximately 420 miles (680 kilometers) off shore and east of Cape Canaveral, Florida, surrounded by the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean.

SpaceX Falcon 9 booster from Thaicom-8 launch on May 27, 2016 arrives at mouth of Port Canaveral, FL atop droneship platform on June 2, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

It was soon towed back by the Elsbeth III tug. By Tuesday evening it had arrived some 14 miles or so offshore Cocoa Beach, Fl., in the Atlantic.

After stationkeeping for some 36 hours, the journey began anew and the the booster arrived at the mouth of Port Canaveral at about 11: 45 a.m., with a picture perfect entrance via Jetty Park pier.

It continued along the Port Canaveral channel for another 30 minutes or so until docking at the SpaceX ground facility.

Up close view of base of recovered SpaceX Falcon 9 atop droneship during arrival on June 2, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

So my day was filled with endless eye candy consisting of observing ground breaking rockets and technology that will one day lead to establishing a ‘City on Mars’ – according to the SpaceX’s visionary CEO and founder Elon Musk.

This Falcon 9 began its rapid journey to space and back roaring to life at 5:39 p.m. EDT last Friday, May 27, from Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, ascending into sky blue sunshine state skies.

Proud fisherman displays ultra fresh ‘catch of the day’ as ultra rare species of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket floats by simultaneously on barge in Port Canaveral, Fl, on June 2, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The Falcon 9 was carrying the Thaicom-8 telecommunications satellite to orbit.

Despite long odds due to a high speed orbital delivery launch on May 27 as its primary goal, the spent Falcon 9 first stage managed to successfully carry out a rapid propulsive descent and soft landing at seas on a tiny ocean going platform.

The May 27 landing was the third straight successful landing for SpaceX at sea and the second straight landing after delivering a commercial payload to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).

With a total of 4 recovered boosters, SpaceX is laying the path to rocket reusability and Musk’s dream of slashing launch costs – by 30% initially and much much more down the road.

Pelican Navy stands watch and greets SpaceX Naval Fleet and Falcon 9 rocket float by on barge approaching mouth of Port Canaveral, Fl, on June 2, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Thaicom-8 was built by aerospace competitor Orbital ATK, based in Dulles, VA. It will support Thailand’s growing broadcast industry and will provide broadcast and data services to customers in South Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa.

Thaicom-8 is the fifth operational satellite for Thaicom.

It now enters a 30-day testing phase, says Orbital ATK.

SpaceX Falcon 9 booster moving along the Port Canaveral channel after passing through mouth atop droneship platform on June 2, 2016 following Thaicom-8 launch on May 27, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The Falcon 9 launch is the 5th this year for SpaceX.

Watch for more photos/videos of today’s arrival in port in Part 2 soon.

Watch for Ken’s continuing on site reports direct from Cape Canaveral and the SpaceX launch pad.

Tourists enjoy SpaceX Falcon 9 booster moving along the Port Canaveral channel atop droneship platform on June 2, 2016 following Thaicom-8 launch on May 27, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Up close view of top of SpaceX Falcon 9 booster showing decal, US flag, grid fins and nitrogen cold gas thruster as it floats along the Port Canaveral channel atop droneship platform on June 2, 2016 following Thaicom-8 launch on May 27, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

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Learn more about SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, ULA Atlas rocket, Orbital ATK Cygnus, ISS, Boeing, Space Taxis, Mars rovers, Orion, SLS, Antares, NASA missions and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events:

June 2/3/8/9: “SpaceX, ULA, SLS, Orion, Commercial crew, Curiosity explores Mars, Pluto and more,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings

SpaceX Falcon 9 booster moving along the Port Canaveral channel atop droneship platform with cruise ship in background nears ground docking facility on June 2, 2016 following Thaicom-8 launch on May 27, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Upgraded SpaceX Falcon 9 blasts off with Thaicom-8 communications satellite on May 27, 2016 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL. 1st stage booster landed safely at sea minutes later. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Ken Kremer

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, research scientist, freelance science journalist (KSC area,FL) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calendars including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, FOX, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now, Science and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, NASA Wallops, NASA Michoud/Stennis/Langley and on over 80 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

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