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Building off of this question, I am curious as to how much (just a simple magnitude of order) propellant remains inside a booster to cause such an explosion? Considering cost, I would expect very little would have remained after main engine cutoff on the barge, preventing such a hollywood-style explosion.

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  • $\begingroup$ Fuel is cheap, relative to the value of the rocket stage. They want to have a margin to make sure they don't run out of propellant just before the landing. And don't underestimate the explosive power of fuel. 100 litres of RP-1 plus the same in LOX is in the same ballpark as a 250-lb air-launched bomb. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Jan 18 '16 at 21:14
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    $\begingroup$ The explosion on Jason 3 was actually very small — compare it to the CRS 6 barging attempt. Also, having excess fuel actually makes landing simpler as the landing velocity/deceleration is smaller $\endgroup$ – radex Jan 18 '16 at 21:24
  • $\begingroup$ The explosion doesn't come from the liquid propellant. That would just burn - really fiercely in the presence of liquid oxygen, but it doesn't explode. The fuel vapor (of which there is probably a lot) on the other hand, will go bang if it's mixed with oxygen. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Jan 19 '16 at 11:18
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I do not have a quote to source it, but recall Elon Musk saying it was on the order of a 100 lbs of fuel and oxidizer left. Almost dry, but clearly enough to burn.

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