SpaceX is starting to run out of ‘firsts’ to do, but they hit another one today. This morning, SpaceX successfully launched a mission for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). It was the first launch with NRO and opens up another paying customer for the private aerospace company.
The secretive nature of the payload also meant we were only treated to the first stage separation and landing. No views of the payload or second stage telemetry. The folks at SpaceX made up for the shorter webcast by treating us to breathtaking new angles of the first-stage. Cameras on the ground kept tabs of the entire launch, and the webcast gave us a split-screen view of the return trip home.
Launch starts at 11:48 in the webcast below. Stage separation at 14:20. Entry burn at 19:05. And landing burn at 20:27. Just watch from 11:48 onwards. The new angles are crazy.
Those explosive white puffs after stage separation are the nitrogen thrusters steering the first stage back during descent. I love the ground angles showing these.
As for the payload onboard? We don’t know what was sitting atop the Falcon 9 rocket, but we do know it was light enough to make a land-based landing feasible. A land-based landing most likely means the payload was lifted into low-Earth orbit. This gave the first stage rocket more than enough fuel to make the trip right back where it started. Instead of a remote ship landing in the Atlantic Ocean.
The launch of the spy satellite also means today’s webcast was a little different. Instead of watching from launch to payload deployment, we only got to see the first-stage part of the mission. But man was it worth it. Just look at these views.
Congrats to the entire SpaceX team on another successful launch. And huge props to the webcast team. The new angles are unbelievable. There’s no rest for the folks at SpaceX, though. Two more launches are scheduled this month. The Inmarsat-5 launch on May 15 and the ISS-bound CRS-11 on May 31. I’ll keep you updated on launch timings for both.
Image credits: SpaceX