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The Falcon 9’s first stage is equipped with hypersonic grid fins, and not planar fins, as shown in the diagram below. Grid fins are used during the re-entry and landing of the first stage of Falcon 9 rocket. It helps in guiding the first stage return back to the ground location after accomplishing primary mission requirements.

Grid fins located near the top of first stage of Falcon 9 rocket
Grid fins located near the top of first stage of Falcon 9 rocket Photo credits: SpaceX

Originally it was made from aluminum, but the latest version of Falcon 9 introduces new forged titanium grid fins. The specific shape, size, and mount points have changed as well. Check the below image for size comparison.

Grid fins comparison. Old on left.  Photo credits: Geofcc/Stackexchange
Grid fins comparison. Old on left. Photo credits: Geofcc/Stackexchange

Elon has often highlighted the high cost of the titanium grid fins. The life and low-maintenance feature makes them worth their cost.

The grid fins are placed in an X-wing configuration and are stowed on ascent and deployed during reentry. While the fins are relatively small – they measure just 4 feet by 5 feet – they can roll, pitch, and yaw the 14-story stage up to 20 degrees in order to target a precision landing. (Note that the dimensions are of older design grid fins)

Grid fins side view. Photo credits: Geofcc/Stackexchange
Grid fins side view. Photo credits: Geofcc/Stackexchange

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