The most powerful operational rocket in the world, the Falcon Heavy, has lost its center core booster to the Atlantic Ocean.
SpaceX Confirms Booster Loss
SpaceX confirmed the news in a statement released on Monday, April 15. The aerospace company explained that inclement weather prevented its recovery team from retrieving the central core booster that fell off the waters while being transported back to the coast last week.
"Over the weekend, due to rough conditions, SpaceX's recovery team was unable to secure the center core booster for its return trip to Port Canaveral," reads SpaceX's statement. "As conditions worsened with eight to ten foot swells, the booster began to shift and ultimately was unable to remain upright. While we had hoped to bring the booster back intact, the safety of our team always takes precendence."
The company added that the loss of the central core booster will not impact future missions.
Falcon Heavy's Second Ever Mission
Aside from the lost booster, the second flight of the Falcon Heavy was declared a success. The rocket launched from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral on Thursday, April 11, to deliver Arabsat-6A, a communications satellite, into orbit.
Shortly after takeoff, all three cores of the rockets landed safely, two of which made it back to the concrete landing pads in Cape Canaveral. The center core touched down on the drone ship called Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean.
This was the first time SpaceX had pulled off a successful triple landing. When the Falcon Heavy launched for the first time in February last year, only two of the boosters landed. The center core missed the drone ship and landed into the water.
However, the Atlantic Ocean claimed another booster. While in transit back to Port Canaveral, the center core booster accidentally fell into the ocean. The drone ship has an "octograbber" that can latch onto the boosters that land into the water but it was designed for the Falcon 9, which has different boosters. The octograbber could not latch on to the Falcon Heavy's central core that connects to two side boosters in the same way.
The Falcon Heavy is scheduled for another launch this summer. The two outer cores that landed safely last week will be used together with an entirely new center core.