The rocket was apparently recovered by attaching a towing line to the heavy, lower end (with the engines) and pulling at backwards.

This seems counterintuitive to me, as this pushes the water into the (from the side) converging landing legs and then full-on into the engine nozzles. Even if they anyways plan to scrap the engines and only hope to reuse other parts of that rocket, going this direction would appear to put more stress on it than pulling “forwards”, such that the interstage (anyways raised through the weight of the engines on the other end) forms a somewhat reasonable bow, or could perhaps even be supported with some inflatable floaters.

Why did they pull backwards instead?

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    $\begingroup$ One point--it's unlikely they'll actually reuse much of anything from that booster. Once salt water gets to them it's normally more expensive to repair than replace. They no doubt want to try to understand what went wrong, though. $\endgroup$ Dec 8, 2018 at 1:35
  • $\begingroup$ @LorenPechtel that would give a further reason – it being the hydraulics for the grid fins on top that failed, they'd want to keep action as far away as possible from those, to analyse the problem that actually occured in flight and not something that only happened during recovery. But then I wonder if that influenced the decision or towing backwards would have been the way to go anyways. $\endgroup$ Dec 8, 2018 at 2:07

1 Answer 1


I suspect this is due to the bottom having easier mounting and attachment solutions. Additionally the interstage section (top of the booster) was damaged when it fell over which might prevent crew from attaching on that end.

Falcon being towed

Falcon interstage damage

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    $\begingroup$ It's also (mostly) designed to resist forces from that direction. Water pushing against the bottoms of the legs and the nozzles produces a force profile that isn't too much different from the ground pushing against the landing pads, or the engines pushing against the rocket body. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Dec 8, 2018 at 3:01
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    $\begingroup$ it'll be more controllable attached to the heavy end $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Dec 8, 2018 at 10:55

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