Ride aboard the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage on descent

Take a virtual trip from space back to planet Earth with an sped up video clip showing the eye-popping on-board views from the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage booster Friday as it plummeted back to Earth, opened aerodynamic steering fins and fired its engines for a final braking maneuver just before touchdown.

The 156-foot-tall booster detached from the Falcon 9’s second stage less than three minutes after Friday’s liftoff from Cape Canaveral at 5:39 p.m. EDT (2139 GMT) with the Thaicom 8 communications satellite.

The video from a rocket-mounted camera shows the first stage opening four grid fins in an X-wing configuration for aerodynamic stabilization, then flipping around for a re-entry burn and a landing burn, targeting SpaceX’s drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic Ocean.

The rocket flew arced to the edge of space — flying hundreds of thousands of feet over the puffy tops of thunderstorms — after reaching a top speed of more than 5,000 mph (8,000 kilometers per hour), then fired cold gas nitrogen thrusters to flip around and line up for re-entry.

The pulses of white exhaust seen in this video are the cold gas nitrogen thrusters firing. A condensation cloud is briefly seen around the booster as the rocket decelerates below the speed of sound.

Touchdown on the landing barge occurred about 8 minutes, 40 seconds, after liftoff approximately 420 miles (680 kilometers) east of Cape Canaveral.

Portions of the on-board video were shown by SpaceX live on Friday’s live webcast of the launch.

The Falcon 9’s upper stage continued into orbit with the Thaicom 8 communications satellite, successfully deploying the broadcasting station in a preliminary orbit stretching more than 56,000 miles (90,000 kilometers) above Earth.

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