Human WorldScience WireSpace

Awesome Falcon 9 landing in Florida

Just weeks after Blue Origin’s safe soft landing of a rocket following a launch to sub-orbital space, SpaceX has launched its Falcon 9 rocket on a satellite-deployment mission, brought it back to Earth, and landed it safely and upright in Florida. Wow! What a time to be alive. The Monday night launch and rocket landing – December 21, 2015 – helps further the goal of bringing down the cost of space travel. It was the Falcon 9’s first launch in six months following a launch failure last June, and the first-ever upright landing of a rocket used to deploy satellites to space.

The upgraded 23-story-tall Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 8:29 p.m ET (0029 UTC on December 22). The Falcon 9’s second stage and payload separated from the first stage a little more than two minutes later, at an altitude of about 60 miles (100 km).

While the second stage fired its engine and headed to space, the first stage also relit its engines for the return to Earth.

The engine burn slowed the rocket’s descent from supersonic speed, as the main stage of the Falcon 9 returned to a landing site about six miles (10 km) from the launch pad.

Elon Musk – who founded SpaceX – told reporters afterward that the rocket touched down:

… almost dead center on the landing pad.

The Falcon 9’s main objective had been to send 11 satellites into low Earth orbit to boost Orbcom’s OG2 network for machine-to-machine communications, and it did also accomplish that goal.

Meanwhile, at Space X headquarters in Hawthorne, California, the team went wild …

You can watch the webcast of the entire launch from SpaceX: Liftoff at 32:00, and landing at 42:00.

SpaceX had been trying to soft-land its main rocket, the Falcon 9, for the past year. Its plan was originally for a vertical rocket landing on an autonomous drone spaceport in the ocean, but those landing attempts did not succeed.

SpaceX Falcon 9's attempted landing on sea-going barge, April 14, 2015.
SpaceX Falcon 9’s attempted landing on sea-going barge on April 14, 2015. Image via @elonmusk on Twitter
The rocket first stage apparently tipped over after touching down on the platform successfully.
During the April 14 landing attempt, the Falcon 9 rocket first stage apparently tipped over after touching down on the platform successfully. Image via @elonmusk on Twitter

By the way, when Blue Origin brought back its rocket from sub-orbital space last month, and landed it safely in West Texas, SpaceX founder Elon Musk pointed out in a series of tweets that going to sub-orbit is not the same as going to orbit.

After SpaceX’s safe soft landing of its rocket yesterday, there was a return tweet (obligatory? gratuitous?) from Blue Origin’s founder Jeff Bezos:

Kinda fun to watch these geniuses go at it.

Bottom line: SpaceX has accomplished the first-ever successful soft landing of a rocket during a deployment of satellites to space. Following a successful night launch on December 21, 2015, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket landed “almost dead center” on its target near the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It’s been a long time coming, but now … it’s an awesome day in space history! Congrats to Elon Musk and the team.

December 22, 2015
Human World

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