Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Sonic boom finale in spectacular @SpaceX return to flight mission! #LZ1 #OG2 #LC40 #RTF

On the longest night of the year, +SpaceX lit up the sky twice by launching and landing a rocket in Florida!

In this photo composition, the Falcon 9 rocket streaks to space (on the left) and ~8-10 minutes later (on the right) it's first stage returns to Earth for a safe landing. My tweet of this photo reached over 8,000 people last night alone. With all the launch gazers on the space coast (and further in Florida and online all over the world) sending out their photos and thoughts, just imagine how this multiplier effect could reach and inspire the next Elon(a) Musk(s).

The entire night after the launch I was shaking in my space boots with excitement. This was a big deal. This was historic. By landing the first stage, SpaceX essentially saved the 9 engines of the Falcon 9 from a salty-doom in the sea, where if recovered they would not be reusable. It has been stated that the engines represent 90% of the rocket hardware costs. By landing the stage back on land (safely without damage), SpaceX has the opportunity to reuse engines, which could lower the cost of access to space.

Landing Zone 1 was the location where the Falcon 9 returned to Earth. It was formally Launch Complex 13. The Landing Complex 1 name was updated in December (LC-1 was confusing).
The sonic boom from the 1st stage coming back to Earth was intense, and my first reaction was that it exploded on the pad after touching down because of how delayed and loud it was! Jen said it best "it's just like sci-fi". Since the landing, I've had the throne room music from Star Wars Episode IV stuck in my head. What a triumph for SpaceX and the commercial spaceflight industry! Although, the dogs of Cape Canaveral were not happy about the double engine roars and then the sonic boom, but they love us anyway. My video of the sonic boom is below.

One last bonus image... I was procrastinating a bit to figure out where the rocket would launch and land using my previous SpaceX photos from home. Doing my homework definitely helped me set up the shot!

My thoughts via Twitter: How engineer-photographers procrastinate: #LC40 to #LZ1 is 22.3° from my POV. Double streak night? Go @SpaceX #RTF! 

The official stats:
Dec. 21/22 Falcon 9   •  Orbcomm OG2
Launch time: 0129 GMT on 22nd (8:29 p.m. EST on 21st)
Launch site: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched 11 second-generation Orbcomm communications satellites. The satellites will operate for Orbcomm Inc., providing two-way data messaging services for global customers. The rocket flew on a full-thrust version of the Falcon 9 rocket with upgraded Merlin 1D engines, stretched fuel tanks, and a payload fairing. Delayed from December 2014 and 1st Quarter 2015 and August. Delayed from Dec. 19 and Dec. 20. Read our full story. [Dec. 22]


P.S./update: I almost forgot Rafi! Here's a photo I sent to SpaceX friends on the day of the scrub.

Go SpaceX Go!

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