As we reported yesterday, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket first stage used to deliver the SES-16/GovSat-1 communications satellite to orbit on Jan 31 did not make it back to Port Canaveral, and was intentionally destroyed after remaining surprisingly in tact upon splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.
“This rocket was meant to test very high retrothrust landing in water so it didn’t hurt the droneship, but amazingly it has survived,” said Elon Musk on Twitter shortly after the rocket splashed down in the Atlantic. “We will try to tow it back to shore.”
But the booster was an unexpected hazard, and multiple trusted anonymous sources informed AmericaSpace that after considering possible recovery efforts, the U.S. Air Force destroyed it.
In response to our inquiry to clarify, SpaceX issued the following official statement this afternoon:
“While the Falcon 9 first stage for the GovSat-1 mission was expendable, it initially survived splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean. However, the stage broke apart before we could complete an unplanned effort to recover the booster.”
SpaceX went on to say, “Reports that the Air Force was involved in SpaceX’s recovery efforts are categorically false.”
AmericaSpace has since learned that the Air Force was, instead, initially considered to take care of the job, but a commercial company of demolition specialists was eventually hired to safely destroy the hazardous booster.
Again, not the USAF; no strike by the U.S. military was carried out on the Falcon 9.
SpaceX will not comment as to why the stage, “broke apart” (was intentionally demolished), but sources informed AmericaSpace that circuitry onboard was likely fried by water after the booster splashed down, leaving no way for high-pressure areas to vent.
That would make the booster a serious concern, as things like un-safed COPVs (composite overwrapped pressure vessels) at flight pressure could have made it a ticking time bomb and hazard to navigation and marine life, being that they store a dangerous amount of energy if not vented.
SpaceX’s ‘Go Searcher’, one of the company’s work horses for supporting their drone ships to and from offshore landings, also arrived back in Port Canaveral a couple days ago, without the booster in tow.
— Tom McCool (@Cygnusx112) February 7, 2018
The ship suffered an unrelated engine issue.
No details are available as to the company who was hired, or the means by which they destroyed the booster.
– AmericaSpace apologizes for the error in our reporting that the Air Force carried out the demolition. It was destroyed intentionally, but by a hired company, not the U.S. military.