Photo and video imagery from the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Tuesday show the launcher vaulting into space from Cape Canaveral with another batch of nearly 60 Starlink satellites, followed by the successful recovery of the rocket’s first stage booster and payload shroud offshore.
The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) rocket lifted off from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 10:31 a.m. EDT (1431 GMT) Tuesday with 58 SpaceX-built Starlink broadband satellites and three SkySat Earth-imaging satellites for Planet, a San Francisco-based remote sensing company.
The mission marked the 99th orbital launch attempt in SpaceX’s history, and SpaceX’s 14th launch of 2020.
Nine Merlin main engines powered the Falcon 9 rocket into the sky with 1.7 million pounds of thrust, consuming kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants for two-and-a-half minutes before detaching to descend back to Earth for a pinpoint landing on SpaceX’s drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean nearly 400 miles (630 kilometers) northeast of Cape Canaveral.
Falcon 9 has landed! The first stage has arrived on the deck of SpaceX’s drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
— Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) August 18, 2020
The rocket’s two-piece payload shroud jettisoned moments later, after ignition of the Falcon 9’s upper stage engine. The two clamshell-like fairing halves came back to Earth under parachutes, and a SpaceX fairing recovery vessel caught one of the halves with a giant net.
A second fairing recovery boat retrieved the other fairing shell from the sea.
The first stage booster and payload fairing flown on Tuesday’s mission were reused from previous launches. The booster made its sixth trip to space and back Tuesday.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared a video on Twitter showing the payload fairing being caught by one of SpaceX’s recovery boats Tuesday in the Atlantic Ocean. Musk has previously said the fairing for a Falcon 9 rocket costs around $6 million, and reusing the shroud — like recycling first stage boosters — allows SpaceX to cut launch costs.
Aloha, welcome back from space 💫 pic.twitter.com/xWPN09Wtaw
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 18, 2020
Additional photos from the launch Tuesday are posted below. Read our earlier story for a full report on the mission.
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