A spectacular launch from Cape Canaveral just after sunset Monday delivered to orbit Italy’s second satellite in a new generation of COSMO-SkyMed radar remote sensing spacecraft. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket put on a memorable sky show over Florida’s Space Coast during its climb into space and return to Earth.
The launch began at 6:11 p.m. EST (2311 GMT) Monday with a fiery blastoff powered by nine Merlin engines from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Less than two-and-a-half minutes later, the Falcon 9 shed its first stage booster and ignited a single Merlin upper stage engine to continue the flight into orbit.
Flying first stage pulsed cold gas nitrogen thrusters to flip around, then restarted three of its engines moments later to begin thrusting back toward Cape Canaveral. The dance in the sky occurred more than 250,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean, where sunlight illuminated the dueling exhaust plumes from both segments of the rocket.
These photos show the Falcon 9 rocket’s liftoff from Cape Canaveral, and the maneuvers by the booster stage to return to the spaceport for landing.
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