SpaceX launches SES-9, attempts first stage landing

Last weekend, on the fifth attempt, SpaceX was able to get the SES-9 spacecraft delivered to the proper geosynchronous transfer orbit!  And, as if that weren’t accomplishment enough, they attempted a hail-Mary first stage recovery attempt; without enough fuel for a boostback burn, they attempted a trans-Atlantic barge landing, where only the landing burn was actually performed; only the cold gas thrusters and grid fins were used to orient and slow the vehicle.  SpaceX gave a low chance of success, and indeed, it was not successful.  However, they did again manage to hit the target at least, which is pretty dang impressive considering the kinds of speeds we’re talking about.

Since these geostationary launches require considerably more propellant than the LEO launches, perfecting recovery even in these situations is critical to accomplishing SpaceX’s long-term goal of financially viable first stage reusability.  And they are well on the way to that impressive goal.

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