Elon Musk’s SpaceX has successfully launched the South Korean-built Koreasat-5A communications satellite to a distant geostationary orbit on Monday.
The Falcon 9 roared through the skies in what was one of Florida’s first brisk fall days.
Incredibly, the launch marked a doubling of SpaceX’s record number of launches for a single year. The private spaceflight company has now launched the Falcon 9 a staggering 16 times in 2017 and is hoping to round out at 19 or 20 if they are lucky.
Liftoff occurred at the top of the launch window at 3:34 PM ET from the historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Skies were perfectly clear and the 45th weather squadron had predicted a less than 10% chance of cloud interference or lightning.
Along with today’s launch came a somewhat imperfect landing. Because of the heavy payload headed to a pretty far orbit, there was not enough reserve fuel left in the Falcon 9’s booster to navigate back to land for a ground touchdown at Cape Canaveral.
Instead, SpaceX brought the Koreasat-5A Falcon 9 booster home to the autonomous drone-ship; the Of Course I Still Love You. It didn’t go as smoothly as other successful sea-landings as the Falcon 9 booster caught on fire as it touched down. SpaceX as able to out the fire right away.
The pad was previously used to launch Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon and then later served the celebrated Space Shuttle program. This year, the pad was part of history again when SpaceX used it to launch the first previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket on a second mission.
The Falcon 9 came in really hot and we could tell by how fiery red the rocket’s grid fins became. The grid fins (the waffle-shaped ‘wings) are attached as a set of four to the Falcon 9 to navigate a booster back to Earth. SpaceX recently flew larger titanium grid fins that were cast out of a single giant piece of the metal and are supposed to stop overheating.
As SpaceX’s live feed came back on moments later, it was quite obvious that the returned Falcon 9 was partially on fire.
Photo Credits: Star Letters