Historic: SpaceX grabs Falcon 9 fairing for reuse after launch of Israeli AMOS-17 satellite

SpaceX retired the rest of the thrice-used Falcon 9 from service after the 87-minute launch sequence.


The novelty of launching and landing a booster vertically, and then launching it again, appears to have worn off for SpaceX, but it sure is odd to watch a SpaceX launch that doesn't end in a satisfying booster landing. In a first, SpaceX launched an expendable, twice-flown Falcon 9 rocket on a satellite launch mission on 6 August and captured the rocket's fairing for reuse in future missions.

Lifting off from Pad 40 in Florida, the Falcon 9 launched the third flight by the Falcon 9 booster. It was also the 25th time a SpaceX vehicle was reflown in an orbital launch. The company successfully launched an Israeli communication satellite, AMOS-17, on a twice-flown Falcon 9. The AMOS-17 satellite, the mission payload, is an Israeli communication satellite built to support broadcast, broadband, and data services in Africa.

The Falcon 9 booster supporting the mission previously flew in support of the Telstar 19 VANTAGE in July 2018 and Es'hail-2 launch in November 2018.

As planned, SpaceX retired the thrice-used Falcon 9 booster from service after the 87-minute launch sequence. At the moment, thrice is the maximum number of times a Falcon 9 can be reused without complications. However, the nose cone of the Falcon 9 (where the payload is housed), was returned safely for reuse in future missions, pending a little fixing up.

Historic: SpaceX grabs Falcon 9 fairing for reuse after launch of Israeli AMOS-17 satellite

The Falcon 9's payload fairing mid-recovery in the final, January 2019 test. image; SpaceX

SpaceX caught the vehicle's nose cone after it fell back to Earth — the first time the company has ever attempted and pulled off such a feat. The fairing broke away in space and glided back to the surface tied to a parachute, where it was captured by SpaceX's boat — Ms Tree boat (Mystery boat, get it?) — retrofitted with a giant net. This recovery is something SpaceX experimented with at the start of the year with their other fairing capture boat, Mr Steven.

It was only just two and a half years ago that SpaceX first reused a Falcon 9 rocket stage, in the historic launch of the SES-10 communications satellite. SpaceX has now made reuse old news, having launched previously-flown Falcon 9 first stages more than two dozen times.

Next on the agenda for the SpaceX is getting its Starhopper to hop right — without bursting into flames, that is.

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