I hoping to look at learn more about Main Engine Cut Off (MECO) for various scenarios. 5 quantities I want are:

1) Booster mass at lift off.

2) Booster mass at MECO

3) Booster velocity at MECO (including direction, horizontal and vertical components)

4) Booster altitude at MECO.

5) Booster distance from launch pad at MECO.

The scenarios I want to compare are:

Ordinary expendable launch

Reusable booster flying a vertical path and Return To Luanch Site (RTLS)

Reusable booster flying eastward and then horizontal boost back for RTLS.

Reusable booster landing on a sea platform downrange.

It seems to me the quantities I'm looking for would vary for each scenario.

It's my belief reuse would have a hit on payload mass. I've heard vertical lofting RTLS would have a 15% hit on payload mass and horizontal boost back RTLS would have a 30% hit on payload mass. I don't know if that's accurate as I don't know what math and models are used to arrive at those figures.

  • $\begingroup$ SpaceX's end game is launch from Texas and land first stage in Florida, rather than RTLS, isn't it? $\endgroup$ Apr 17, 2015 at 23:08
  • $\begingroup$ @RussellBorogove no. Musk has stated that it's not possible. $\endgroup$ Apr 18, 2015 at 5:46

1 Answer 1


SEI did a study on the Falcon 9: http://www.sei.aero/eng/papers/uploads/archive/SpaceWorks%20VTVL%20Study%20-%20Release.pdf

Their simulations show that there's about a 20% payload hit for downrange landing and about a 40% hit for RTLS recovery; Elon's numbers are more optimistic at about 15%/30%.

  • $\begingroup$ Note that they use falcon v1.1 for this simulation (what was flying at the time). With F9 FT and the future F9 Block 5 all those numbers should increase and the penalty for recover should shrink, approaching Elon's numbers. $\endgroup$
    – ReneSac
    Oct 30, 2016 at 13:47

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