SpaceX Mission Flawless


SpaceX celebrated its return to space Saturday with a flawless launch, satellite deployment and recovery of the first stage booster on a drone ship floating in the Pacific Ocean. The Dragon 9 spacecraft lifted off within the one-second launch window from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California just before 1 p.m. EST, about five months after a similar rocket blew up on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral. The cause of the Sept. 1 failure was traced to a buckled pressure vessel on the spacecraft that failed during fueling.

On Saturday, the rocket launched in near-perfect weather conditions. The first stage separated successfully a short time later and the second stage carried on to a successful orbit, where it deployed the first 10 of 66 IridiumNext communications satellites in orbit. The whole process took less than 90 minutes. The satellites were ejected 100 seconds apart over Africa and will be moved into their correct positions by Iridium. Meanwhile, rockets fired on the first stage to turn it around and slow it down for a descent through the atmosphere. The rockets fired again to bring the 200-foot tube to a pinpoint landing in the middle of the platform on the drone ship. The rocket body will be refurbished to possibly be reused in a future launch. A recording of Saturday’s live stream of the launch is available here. The onboard footage of the landing is below.