History-Breaking SpaceX Falcon 9 Booster Mostly Destroyed After it Toppled at the Ocean Droneship

SpaceX Falcon 9 Booster that launches both crewed and uncrewed missions into orbit has met its end during its recent post-flight recovery. The American aerospace company named this booster B1058. It is the first stage of the spaceship that returns to SpaceX’s floating launch platform.

However, when B1058 was making its way towards the shore for its record-breaking 19th flight, it tipped over. SpaceX reported on X on December 25, that “the booster tipped over due to high winds and waves.” Before this end of the booster, the rocket had assisted SpaceX in launching its 23 Starlink broadband satellites and successfully touched down on the company’s droneship named “Just Read The Instructions” two days earlier.

The droneship is stationed in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Florida. Images released by the company of the booster revealed that only the lower part of B1058 remained intact. Three of the booster’s four landing legs were still deployed and its entire nine Merlin engines managed to remain intact.

“We are planning to salvage the engines and do life leader inspections on the remaining hardware. There is still quite a bit of value in this booster. We will not let it go to waste,” Jon Edwards, SpaceX’s vice president of Falcon launch vehicles, wrote on X on Tuesday (Dec. 26).

SpaceX is already used to losing the upper segment of B1058 as it was used to launch the first astronauts for NASA. The booster was so sophisticated that it remained on the stage in SpaceX’s rockets to be recognized with the company’s “worm” logotype.

How SpaceX Falcon 9 Booster B1058 Made History

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 first stage B1058 is seen launching (at left) and landing on Dec. 23, 2023, after completing its 19th re-flight. (Image credit: SpaceX)

On May 30, 2020, the SpaceX Flacon 9 booster B1058 lifted off for the first time during SpaceX’s Demo-2 (DM-2) mission. That mission carried NASA Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard the firm’s Crew Dragon capsule Endeavour. The crew safely arrived on the International Space Station and commenced with their two-month long mission.

That was the first time NASA astronauts were launched from the United States since NASA ended its space shuttle program in 2011.

After the Demo-2 mission, B1058 has been used to launch several missions including SpaceX’s 21st cargo delivery mission to the ISS named CRS 21, a dedicated satellite launch named ANASIS-II for South Korea, two shared ride satellite launches named Transporter-1 and Transporter-3 and also 14 Starlink missions. The booster had been certified for 20 launches just like other “Block 5” boosters in SpaceX’s fleet.

“This one reusable rocket booster alone launched to orbit two astronauts and more than 860 satellites, totaling 260+ metric tons, in about 3.5 years,” SpaceX wrote on X.

SpaceX also revealed that other Falcon 9 first stages might have withstood the rough sea conditions given improvements made to their landing legs.

“We came up with self-leveling legs that immediately equalize leg loads on landing after experiencing a severe tippy booster two years ago on Christmas,” wrote Kiko Dontchev, SpaceX’s vice president of launch, on X. “The fleet is mostly outfitted, but 1058, given its age, was not. It met its fate when it hit the intense wind and waves failing a partially secured OG [“octograbber” hold-down clamp] less than 100 miles [160 kilometers] from home.”

“One thing is for sure we will make lemonade out of lemons and learn as much as possible from historic 1058 on our path to aircraft-like operations,” he wrote.

Why SpaceX Will Always Remember Booster B1058

The remains of the Falcon 9 booster B1058 wreckage atop the droneship “Just Read the Instructions” on Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2023. (Image credit: Sean Cannon via collectSPACE.com)

Since Booster B1058 commenced with its flight operation, it has helped SpaceX meet many of its mission goals. While the company still expects the rocket to perform more, it will continue to use other fleets to continue with its missions. 

SpaceX fans reacted to the news of the 1058’s destruction with regrets as the rocket did not retire to the Smithsonian or another museum for preservation. However, the remains of B1058 may be sampled for display at the museum for its history-breaking flights.

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