Falcon 9 delivers Jason 3, and gets a little bit closer to a sea landing!

Falcon 9 blasted off from Vandenberg AFB in California this morning, flawlessly placing the Jason 3 ocean-height-monitoring satellite into orbit.  The first stage then executed another attempted landing, the first from California.  Since SpaceX does not yet have the environmental assessment complete for landing at Vandenberg, they used a barge again, and got closer still to nailing the ocean landing.  This time, at least most of the rocket stayed on the barge.  And it probably would have been successful had one of the landing legs not failed to lock properly.  It’s unclear whether this failure was preexisting, or whether it happened due to a possible hard landing; apparently the seas were a bit rougher than predicted, so it’s possible the barge slammed into the rocket a little early.  Here you can watch it launch out of the morning mists of the southern California coast:

Here’s the first stage, on the landing barge being taken back to shore:

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In other news, the successfully landed first stage from the recent ORBCOMM launch was test-fired at Kennedy Space Center on the old LC-39A pad.  The burn was good, although one of the nine engines showed some abnormal readings that might possibly be due to debris ingestion.  They’re planning borescope inspections this week which should give a clearer answer.  If it has ingested debris, that’s something they’ll need to address in order to achieve their reusability goals.

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