I may have the opportunity to watch the upcoming Falcon 9 launch of NASA's TESS mission in person. Because of this, I'm curious whether I'll be able to watch the first stage of the Falcon 9 land back at Cape Canaveral or if this is a mission where the first stage will land on a barge instead.

In general,

  • Does SpaceX publish a list of the first stage landing sites for their upcoming missions?
  • If not, does anyone know specifically for the TESS mission launch if/where the first stage will be landed?
  • Is there a published cutoff payload mass/delta v for the Falcon 9 to have to land at sea instead of back on land (and similarly, a published cutoff payload mass/delta v for whether the first stage can be landed at all)?

TESS is a fairly small satellite (Wikipedia has its launch mass listed as 350 kg), but it will be going beyond low-earth orbit (a high-eccentricity orbit with perigee at about the moon's orbital distance), so from that I don't know what to expect with regards to how much fuel consumption will be required for the first stage.


3 Answers 3


It seems the plan is to land the booster at sea, because it will be a softer landing, presumably because it uses less fuel, and can afford a more gentle decent.



As you note, usually smaller payloads can RTLS (Return To Launch Site). Also some higher energy missions the first stage needs to land down range.

SpaceX is not publicly listing the plans for each mission but a number of sites are trying to collect all information and format it. So Reddit r/spacex has a pretty good listing of future missions, with information on cores, reuse, landing attempts, etc and it is updated as more information becomes available.

Thus at this moment in time, it is not clearly published, and will likely change in the near term as the launch gets closer.

List of SpaceX Missions

  • $\begingroup$ Fixed the acronym. And in context of launches, RTLS is a well known acronym, in use for Shuttle since 1981 at least, so long lived as well. Answer is" at the moment unknown, in the future, shall be known, check again later here... $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Feb 4, 2018 at 2:37
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know at this moment, but I do know where to find it, when it becomes known. PS: Was that a Cathy Newman meme pun? If so! Thumbs up, well done. $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Feb 4, 2018 at 2:41
  • $\begingroup$ No, I'm not that sophisticated! Will do comment cleanup in a minute. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Feb 4, 2018 at 2:42

If it's a Block 4 Falcon 9, there will not even be an attempt at landing. They will test the capabilities of the Falcon 9 by doing a simulated landing over the ocean. If it's one of the new Block 5 versions, possibly a landing somewhere. SpaceX and NASA haven't said anything, so we can't be sure.

NASA's pre-launch briefings will begin on April 15th at 13:00, social at 11:00, and science at 15:00. Launch at 6:32 on the 16th of April.

Latest info is that SpaceX is using a Block 4. No landing.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ What's your source saying that it's a Block 4? $\endgroup$ Apr 13, 2018 at 3:18
  • $\begingroup$ It is the last new block 4 so no reason to throw it away when it should be good for a second flight. $\endgroup$
    – jkavalik
    Apr 13, 2018 at 8:21

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