SpaceX Falcon 9 booster at sea likely destroyed, sources say

SpaceX launched SES-16/GovSat satellite Jan. 31

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – SpaceX is known for its reuse of its rockets’ first-stage boosters, but sometimes, a booster landing isn’t possible because of the mission if there isn’t enough fuel to make a return.

After the Jan. 31 Falcon 9 launch with the SES-16/GovSat-1 communications satellite, SpaceX was not planning on recovering the rocket’s booster. However, the rocket hardware plopped down in the Atlantic Ocean off Florida’s coast, according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

Musk tweeted out a picture of the booster floating in the 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," Musk said. "We will try to tow it back to shore."

The booster has not made it back to Port Canaveral as of Friday. Space industry insiders say it was intentionally destroyed at sea, possibly by the military, rather than being towed back to shore.

Later, NASASpaceFlight.com reported the rocket hardware was disposed of, but 45th Space Wing and Air Space Command officials said they could not confirm that to News 6.

Because the booster was part of a government mission, it would need to be collected or destroyed to ensure that it does not get picked up by another party.

SpaceX officials have not returned a request for comment about the booster.

On Tuesday the company successfully launched its new rocket, the Falcon Heavy, from Kennedy Space Center, sending a test payload of Musk's Tesla Roadster into deep space.

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