Feb 082018

Not the Heavy launched a few days ago, but the previous Falcon 9, launched a week ago and soft-landed in the water.

Air Force Strike Takes Out SpaceX’s Floating GovSat Booster

The booster tested high retrothrust landing. Like a lot of SpaceX’s successful tests, they didn’t expect the booster to survive virtually intact, so they didn’t have a plan in place to recover the thing. Officially that made it a hazard to navigation; boosters like this have carbon over-wrapped high pressure helium tanks and other splodey bits. Unofficially, I wonder if the real reason was a desire to keep the booster from falling into nefarious hands… not so much the likes of United Launch Alliance, but more like Bond villains or the Chinese government (but I repeat myself).

Exactly how the Chinese or SPECTRE would go about snagging a floatign rocket booster is anyone guess. The rational approach would be to pre-position a modified cargo vessel equipped with cranes and such… hardly likely to go un-noticed. Less likely would be to modify a submarine to rise up underneath it, latch on, poke some holes in it, sink and be on its way. Less likely still would be a giant dirigible or seaplane.

These are of course all silly. But then, the CIA paying Howard Hughes to scoop a Soviet ballistic missile sub off the ocean floor was a silly notion as well.

But to the specific topic at hand, I wonder if the strike operation was carried out with laser guided bombs or with gunfire. I suspect the former… a B-1 or B-52 laying waste seems like the sort of excessive drama the situation calls for.

 Posted by at 6:39 pm
  • B-Sabre

    Was there any strike operation at all? The whole article is supposition based on anonymous sources.

  • CaptainNed

    Makes more sense to send an A-10 out there and fill it full of holes with the GAU-8. Should be able to sink it in one pass.

  • Siergen

    Since the Air Force could possibly claim ownership/responsibility for the booster wreckage, it would be a good training exercise to seek and destroy a seaborne target.

  • imhoFRED

    Just check the nose art on planes at the local airbase for horizontal rocket boosters covered by red exs.

    Maybe the Navy subs got some torpedo practice.

    • CaptainNed

      At roughly $4 million/per for a MK 48 MOD 7?

      • imhoFRED

        What’s that equivalent to? a round of golf for POTUS?

  • Thucydides_of_Athens

    I thought SpaceX was eager to recover the booster since it had survived, so they could do a teardown and examine the pieces? How hard is it to hire a tug to go out and tow it close enough to shore to salvage (or get a salvage barge and a crane?).

    • Scottlowther

      The booster was expected to break up and sink, rather than survive intact, so there was no plan in place. And once it survived… what would they do with it? Had it *landed,* maybe they could have salvaged something from it, but floating around in seawater for a few days is a recipe for ruined every damn thing, so from SpaceX’s point of view it was junk. And unlike the Shuttle SRBs, the Falcon 9 is relatively fragile; unless it was fished out of the water, towing it would doubtless trash it, perhaps popping the tanks or even tearing it apart.

      Lots of reasons not to bother, few reasons to bother. Since they’d already written it off, and could not economically recover a useful booster from it, just a museum piece at best, any effort to recover would be money wasted. Having the Air Force blow it to flinders cost SpaceX nothing and gave the USAF some good exercise.

    • publiusr

      Sea Dragon–it’s not.

      • Scottlowther

        Indeed. Falcon 9, unlike Sea Dragon, is fully designed, demonstrated, being manufactured. In short, unlike Sea Dragon, Falcon 9 is *real.*