At least, SpaceX made it look that way. While most of us were sleeping, the folks at SpaceX were busy doing their thing. The early morning mission was tasked with placing a Japanese communications satellite into a geostationary (or geosynchronous) orbit. Oh, and SpaceX was going to attempt its barge landing again.
At just after 1:31 am EDT, SpaceX tweeted the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed on the drone ship.
The first stage of the Falcon 9 landed damn near dead center on the droneship ‘Of Course I Still Love You.’ I think SpaceX is going to need a new name. How about, ‘Too Easy.’
While it ultimately stuck the landing, SpaceX officials weren’t feeling too confident before landing. “We are not expecting a successful landing this time around,” said John Federspiel, SpaceX’s lead mechanical design engineer at SpaceX, as the first stage plummeted through Earth’s atmosphere.
Why wasn’t SpaceX feeling optimistic? It wasn’t the darkness. The issue was speed.
Remember, they were delivering a satellite to geostationary orbit. That orbit has an apogee (max distance) of 26,199 miles away. To put that in perspective, the International Space Station is about 249 miles above Earth. Getting a satellite into this orbit requires much more speed. More speed means more fuel. More fuel means less for the landing.
Rocket reentry is a lot faster and hotter than last time, so odds of making it are maybe even, but we should learn a lot either way
Did You Know: Geostationary orbits are handy for communications satellites because they always stay above the same location on Earth. This communications satellite is providing communication services to millions across Southeast Asia. The same orbit is also commonly used for weather satellites.
Because SpaceX needed more speed to get the satellite into a higher orbit, it also meant there would be more speed on the trip back down.
As for the main mission? SpaceX successfully deployed the communications satellite at the correct orbit.
With three rocket landings under their belt (one land, two sea), SpaceX’s vision for reusable rockets is becoming a reality. I can’t wait to see one of these rockets used again.
But this morning’s landing highlights another problem for SpaceX.
May need to increase size of rocket storage hangar