Paint & Cork Insulation Literally Falling-Off Falcon 9 – Falcon 9 has paint and/or primer literally falling off…

Paint falling off of Falcon 9

Watch this video,Falcon 9 has paint and/or primer literally falling off, and you’ll that a good amount of the rocket has lost its paint and cork insulation. You will also notice small pieces of paint and cork insulation falling off the Falcon 9. Then, at 00:08, a much larger piece rips-off, falls upon a building next to the Falcon 9 with enough force to bounce off the building and continue on.

To his credit, Elon Musk, head of SpaceX, admitted that the cork was not bonded properly because there were not sufficient contraction joints. Still, we wonder what else they didn’t get quite right.

(Via YouTube.)


  1. I didn’t realize cork on the first stage serving as TPS for booster *recovery* purposes is part of “Human Rating” requirements.

      • Significant aeroheating on ascent happens only to the nose of the rocket, i.e. fairing and it usually can employ cork for the same purpose. Other surfaces of the rocket within the slipstream do not need to be protected. The cork on F9 1st stage is to protect a tumbling booster from being cooked during reentry at cca. 2.8 km/s.

        • I agree with you there on the nosecap issue however, any protuberance on the side of the vehicle also heats up significantly. The heating on the systems tunnel can/does lead to failures. If they are looking to recover it, good luck with that when the rest of the rocket heats up and burns up upon reentry.

  2. TPS falling off the rocket going up hill is not a good thing. i.e. Columbia. I’m sure those NINE engines below the falling TPS would love to suk some of that up into their turbines. Anything you do for recovery (which means decel also)on a manned rated rocket needs to have all failure modes for ascent and mission success vetted.

    • Shedding loads of debris isn’t nice, however this isn’t the space shuttle. All vehicles can and do shed debris on ascent (including more dangerous chunks of ice from the uninsulated LOX tank, see for example Atlas V) and it’s a design flaw if the vehicle doesn’t take that into account. You have just explained one of the primary purposes the Falcon 9 has those engine fairings on the propulsion section.

      Debris sucked into the turbines? This isn’t a jet engine, its a rocket engine and the turbopumps work on propellants fed directly from the tanks, they don’t interact with the outside atmosphere.

      You of course have a point about all environments being taken into consideration when man-rating the vehicle, but it’s still pretty far-fetched to be making sweeping statements about SpaceX’ “human rating” status when the original commenter probably
      1) has no idea what that actually entails
      2) has no idea what SpaceX’s status is in that regard
      3) doesn’t realize that even NASA likes to change the definition of “human rating” as they see fit for their purpose (and also discrediting other potential vehicles, e.g. EELV)

  3. If Falcon engineers don’t know how to properly bond the craft’s cork insulation we have to assume there may be any number of other crucial engineering they have also screwed up. Three out of five launches failed due to a wide range of unplanned and dangerous technical problems. Falcon will never be approved for manned flight. The first time Falcon kills a human wound shut the space program down for years. NASA is looking for a safer (not riskier) alternative for shuttle.

    Falcon launchs scheduled for July, 2009, November, 2009, February, 2010, and two scheduled March, 2010 dates all scrubbed. They now are trying for April or May. I like to watch Falcon for the same reason I like to watching stock car racing – the amazing crashes.

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