The new SpaceX Heavy animation shows it being launched from LC-39A at Cape Canaveral, FL then all F9 cores returning to the Cape.

Does SpaceX plan on doing a full 180° and returning to the same launch facility? I thought that the land in south Texas they started developing was for launch, and down-range in Florida the boosters could land, as they were basically headed that way anyhow.

The penalty of doing the 180° (kill all forward v, then burn about that much again to make it back) seems extreme versus a smaller retro burn that tweaks your "orbit's" intersection point with the surface.


1 Answer 1


SpaceX seems to have developed a launch system that has a great deal of flexibility.

In fully expendable mode, the F9 and FH are very capable boosters. But more expensive if you throw them away after one use.

In fully reusable mode, with Return to Launch Site (RTLS) you waste a lot of potential payload, on fuel for RTLS. (Up to 30% payload hit on a Falcon 9. Unclear on a FH).

But they have the ability to go somewhere in between as well. With the ASDS they potentially can position it downrange so that a minimized amount of fuel needs to be reserved for recovery.

On a Falcon Heavy, the outer two core boosters separate earlier, thus lower and slower than a normal Falcon 9 first stage. Thus the penalty for RTLS is lower.

But on a cross fed, full payload mission the center core is going much higher and much faster than a F9 first stage, so the RTLS penalty would be higher.

Again the flexibility options remain to eat the cost, and ditch the center core, or else position the ASDS as far downrange as possible to reduce payload reduction.

So the specific answer is sometimes yes, sometimes no, depends on the payload requirements.

PS: Mighy dang fine video too by the way.

  • $\begingroup$ Do you have any links? $\endgroup$
    – Nick T
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 0:06

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