After the shocking loss of the last Falcon 9, the rocket roared well and truly back into business today. They had been slightly delayed by the much needed rains that have come to California, but today the weather was suitable and launch occurred on time and on target, with a successful barge recovery at sea of the first stage – the first from Vandenberg. The Jason-3 launch a year ago was the first attempt to recover a Falcon 9 in the Pacific; it successfully soft-landed, but one of the landing legs failed to lock allowing it to fall over and explode. This one was flawless, and the barge will return to shore in the next couple of days — I believe to San Diego, since that’s where SpaceX recovers their Dragons.
The payload is the first flight of the Iridium NEXT constellation, which uses a brand-new multi-satellite deployment system that appears to have worked flawlessly, deploying all ten spacecraft correctly into their high inclination orbit.
SpaceX successfully launched the Thaicom 8 spacecraft to geosynchronous transfer orbit yesterday, after a one-day delay due to a possible issue with the upper stage. Engineers were able to clear the rocket for launch, and yesterday’s attempt went perfectly, including the risky ocean landing. Landing after a geosynchronous launch is very tricky, because there’s almost no propellant left — just enough for the landing burn. It has only cold gas thrusters and its grid fins to steer and decelerate to that point. And yet, the Falcon 9 first stage nailed another landing on Of Course I Still Love You!
The last landing from geosynchronous orbit left the stage too damaged to be reused. It will take a few weeks to a month for SpaceX engineers to determine whether this one fared any better.
Despite pegging this as an unlikely recovery, the Falcon 9 first stage really stuck the landing on the drone barge Of Course I Still Love You. They’re making remarkable progress towards their long-term objectives; now the only way to up the ante, I think, will be to try and recover boosters from the upcoming Falcon Heavy! Soon this is going to become routine, and that will be amazing.
Payload on this morning’s flight was JCSAT-14, a Loral-built Japanese telecom satellite that will serve customers in Japan and Asia. (If you just want to see the landing, skip ahead to 8:55.)
Alas, this isn’t as high res as some of the other cool 360 videos posted recently, but I’ll take it. It’s pretty sweet. 😉 It has sound too, so you can hear the engine roar as Falcon approaches! Make sure to look up, and watch for the landing legs deploying!
Wouldn’t it be amazing to have to stop and wait while this thing crossed the road in front of you? 😉
Even cooler would be if you were on the KSC bus tour when it drove by. I am really jealous of these people. 😉
Rocketcam videos are always fun, but this one’s extra special. 😉 It’s from the first stage used yesterday. Watch the landing legs deploy and the rocket set itself down on the barge! Also cool: watch the grid fins turn to help control the descent.
Awesome! It came down smooth as butter. The second stage is still burning to push Dragon to orbit, where it will be meeting up with the International Space Station. I’ll post video later. 😉 For now I’m just really thrilled to see it on the barge!
Oh and second stage has now burned out, and Dragon will soon spread her wings!