“There and back again,” said SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk after the amazing successful ‘Return to Flight’ launch of the firms Falcon 9 rocket and history making vertical return landing at Cape Canaveral, Fla, on Monday evening, Dec. 21.
For the first time in history, the first stage of a rocket blazing to orbit with a payload, separated successfully from the upper stage at high speed, turned around and then flew back to nail a successful rocket assisted upright touchdown back on the ground.
The upgraded “full thrust” SpaceX Falcon 9 blasted off Monday night, Dec. 21 at 8:29 p.m. from Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. carrying a constellation of ORBCOMM OG2 communications satellites to low Earth orbit.
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“The Falcon Has Landed!” gushed exuberant SpaceX officials during a live webcast.
Read below what some excited eyewitnesses told Universe Today.
Accompanied by multiple shocking loud sonic booms, the 156 foot tall Falcon 9 first stage separated about 3 minutes into flight and landed successfully on the ground about 10 minutes later at the SpaceX Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) complex at the Cape, some six miles south from pad 40.
The goal of SpaceX is to recover and eventually reuse the boosters in order to radically reduce the the cost of sending payloads and people to space, as often stated by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
My colleague and well known long time space photographer Julian Leek, remarked that the whole experience was fantastic!
“It was fantastic! You just would not believe the feeling,” space photographer Julian Leek told Universe Today. See his photos below.
“One of the best things I have seen since Apollo 11 liftoff!”
“It was one of the most spectacular space events I’ve seen,” said Jeff Seibert, another media photographer colleague.
“We felt like the rocket was coming down on top of us!”
See the dramatic landing in this SpaceX video taken from a nearby helicopter:
“Honestly it will be something I’ll always remember!” astronomy enthusiast Carol Higgins of the Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society of Utica NY, told Universe Today.
“Seeing that thing falling so fast toward Earth, then the engine fire to slow it down, then watching it falling closer to the Cape – my heart was pounding so fast and hard I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to me LOL!”
This morning, Dec. 22, media reps were taken on a boat trip along the Cape’s Atlantic Ocean coastline past Landing Zone 1 for a birdseye view of the Falcon 9 standing upright.
Two cranes from Beyel Bros Crane and Rigging were seen hoisting and moving the Falcon 9 first stage from the vertical to horizontal position at ‘Landing Zone 1’ according to Steven M Beyel.
The primary mission of the Falcon 9 launch was to carry a fleet of eleven small ORBCOMM OG2 commercial communications satellites to orbit on the second of two OG2 launches. All 11 satellites were successfully deployed at an altitude of about 400 mi (620 km) above Earth.
The next generation ORBCOMM OG2 satellites provide Machine – to – Machine (M2M) messaging and Automatic Identification System (AIS) services with capabilities far beyond the OG1 series.
Here’s an expanding galley of photos and video for the Dec 21, 2015 launch and landing at Cape Canaveral.
So check back later for more!
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.
Here’s the Dec 21 launch from my video camera placed at pad 40
11 Replies to “SpaceX Nails Perfect Return to Flight Launch and Historic Vertical Return Landing – Gallery”
This is amazing. Who would have thought that Space X will be back with magic after the failed attempts to land on a barge.
Space is the limit, at least, for now.
Congratulations. Musk is a must in future space travel.
Truly exciting! Hope Musk and Space X can eventually support and launch his own astronauts–wouldn’t it be a real coup if he actually could beat NASA to Mars? By the way, Ken, exactly how close to the “X” did the first stage land? I’ve got a bet riding on your answer….
@BRYAN: In the video clip posted at the end of the article, one can see the full concrete pad as a very large circle, with a lighter colored circle about half that diameter in the middle, while the (comparatively) tiny SpaceX logo sits dead center.
In the video, it looks like the flame from the engine comes down dead center of the logo. At that point the video darkens to compensate for the brightness of the flame, and once the engine shuts off the video doesn’t brighten back up in time to be sure of the actual location of the booster before the clip ends.
Let’s just say, center of mass was likely somewhere within the span of the logo, so I’d give it full marks for a bulls-eye, fwiw.
Thanks, Smokey. I had thought much the same, but my bet adversary told me he would not consider my opinion as a deciding one–it had to be in print. He grudgingly agreed to accept your comment (he bet against it being close to the mark, if at all), and I win the bet! The prize? A prime rib dinner, paid for by him!!
LOL, glad to be of service! Here’s the YewToobz, just in case your friend cares to argue “close” vs. “bulls-eye:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCBE8ocOkAQ
Spacex is outstandng! Fantastic result, Well Done… You truly are showing the World how to get the job done.
I wonder if any Vulcans were watching..?
I wonder how long SpaceX will use legs. You could have some moving landing tower that grabs the rocket softly. That would make the rocket a bit lighter and simpler.
If it comes to that, it is pretty wasteful having every aircraft carry their own landing gear. There ought to be something on the runway that launches and catches them.
Now that the technology to return a rocket stage has been demonstrated, the disposable qualities (e.g. mass) are no longer a priority. Larger more “solid” rockets can be considered for re-use. Go have fun engineers!
This is just so WAY double extra groovy cool! Christmas comes early! Go SpaceX!
Can’t wait to see two boosters land in sequence after a return from a Falcon Heavy boost… then what? 5-10 minutes later the core stage booster lands. THAT my friends will definitely seal the deal. SpaceX is obviously going in the right direction. I wonder which of the major players will follow suite first?
It is exciting times! I’am glad we are living now!
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