The first leg of a Falcon 9 rocket flew into space for the third time on Monday, and less clear skies at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California provided a nice view of the booster.
This was the first time an Orbital Missile had flown vertically for a third time and landed vertically. In addition, SpaceX has now landed half of the Falcon 9 rockets with this 32nd first-stage landing. In no time at all, the company keeps its promise of a reusable spaceflight with its new Block 5 variant of the Falcon 9 rocket.
The scorched nature of the first stage is noticeable in the images above, all the more because of the sheer black intermediate stage that stands out from the flawless white upper stage and payload fairing at the top of the rocket. SpaceX has given up washing or repainting the first missiles between flights because it considers such cosmetic changes to be an unnecessary waste of time and money. (The coarse-grained rocket also reinforces the notion that SpaceX is a company doing things in the launch business.)
Despite its appearance, the black interstage area is a composite structure that connects the first and second levels together Mechanism picks up and separates the two steps safely – is not painted. Rather, a new, proprietary heat protection layer covers the intermediate stage and requires no paint. This black material provides a contrast between the two steps, reminiscent of the company's first rocket, the Falcon 1.
"Aesthetics are obviously a minor factor in rocket design," said SpaceX founder Elon Musk first in May Launch of the block 5 version of the Falcon 9 rocket. "But I still think it's good that, for nostalgic reasons, we returned to a black interstage."
Listing image by SpaceX