Before/during reflight, the boosters look white and clean, but after, they don't. I'm not sure if that's soot and/or burned paint.

I looked but it doesn't seem to have been asked before.

RE Is Falcon 9 repainted before reuse? It does not address the clean look I mentioned, which it turns out based on an answer here is due to the late coverage start with ice/frost already formed.

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    $\begingroup$ The refurbished boosters don't look that nice, so we can rule out a fresh coat of paint. Not even for crewed launches. They wear their scars with pride, it seems. $\endgroup$ – DarkDust May 13 at 15:54
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    $\begingroup$ Does this answer your question? Is Falcon 9 repainted before reuse? $\endgroup$ – Fred Larson May 13 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ @FredLarson: No sorry, but I edited why. Thanks though! $\endgroup$ – ymb1 May 13 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ Here is a photo of a Falcon 9 booster after its 10th (tenth!) flight. As you can see, it is absolutely filthy - and we can tell that that isn't all from its most recent flight, because the parts that have been cleaned (welds and the like, as Jorg says) show up very clearly. $\endgroup$ – Steve Melnikoff May 14 at 8:50
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    $\begingroup$ "(they look clean pre-reflight)?".... um, no they do not. This whole question is based on a false premise. $\endgroup$ – PcMan May 15 at 20:44

It's easy to see by just looking at photos and videos of launches of re-used boosters that they don't. There are only a very few very small white lines, probably where engineers inspected some weld lines or other specific points on the vehicle.

Here is an example of B1061.2 launching the Crew-2 mission. Note that this is only the second launch of this booster, and it is already pretty dirty.

You can also see it on returning boosters, which are dirtier the more often they have flown, which would not be the case if they were cleaned every time.

Unfortunately, it is not that easy to see it on a normal SpaceX live stream because they only start the streams about 10 minutes before launch when fueling is already underway (starting at T-34 minutes) and the booster is already fully covered in ice. You can see it on live streams from other sources, though, here for example from NASASpaceflight.com and Stephen Marr (launch and return to port).

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    $\begingroup$ and the booster is already fully covered in ice – this is it then. Great analysis and links, thanks! $\endgroup$ – ymb1 May 13 at 16:48

The first Falcon 9 re-flights they were made to look white and clean. Using Wikipedia's Falcon launch history and Google Images SES-10, BulgariaSat-1, and SES-11/EchoStar 105 all look spotless. CRS-13 ("internal" customer) is dirty, but not as dirty as nowadays. The Falcon Heavy side boosters (for the first test launch) were re-flown but probably required significant overhaul and are thus spotless. After those all re-flights seem to be dirty.


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