Falcon 9 Booster, which Catapulted US Astronauts to Orbit, Lost During Return to Cape Canaveral
In a bittersweet conclusion to its illustrious career, the Falcon 9 rocket, renowned for restoring NASA crew launches to US soil, faced an unfortunate demise just before Christmas. The historic booster, known by the tail number B1058, launched and landed successfully for the 19th time before tipping over on its recovery ship during the journey back to Cape Canaveral, Florida.
This particular booster played a pivotal role in space exploration, marking a significant milestone on May 30, 2020. It propelled NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on SpaceX’s first crew mission, breaking a nine-year hiatus in American crewed spaceflights from US soil. The success of this mission, named Demo-2, alleviated the nation’s reliance on Russian rockets for transporting astronauts to the International Space Station.
Falcon 9 B1058 then continued its remarkable journey, executing 18 more missions over three-and-a-half years. Primarily tasked with deploying Starlink Internet satellites, the booster became the fleet leader, accumulating a legacy that captured the attention of both space enthusiasts and those directly involved.
Doug Hurley, who commanded the Demo-2 mission, expressed a desire to see the booster’s remains showcased in a museum alongside the Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Endeavour, that carried him and Behnken. Despite the inauspicious ending, Hurley acknowledged the significant utilization SpaceX derived from the rocket and its importance in inspiring people.
The 19th launch on December 23 proved successful, with the booster completing its mission flawlessly. However, during the return journey, adverse weather conditions led to the rocket’s topple on the recovery ship. The absence of SpaceX’s latest landing leg design, capable of self-leveling, contributed to the unfortunate incident.
While the upper two-thirds of the booster were lost at sea, SpaceX remains determined to salvage the remaining components. Jon Edwards, SpaceX’s vice president of Falcon launch vehicles, affirmed plans to conduct life-leader inspections on the salvageable hardware, emphasizing the continued value of the rocket.
As the space community mourns the end of Falcon 9 B1058’s flying career, SpaceX looks forward to further exploring the limits of rocket reusability with upcoming missions. The company remains committed to learning from each experience, turning setbacks into opportunities for improvement.