Watch this cool close-up footage of a SpaceX rocket booster landing

SpaceX

SpaceX successfully launched the Cygnus cargo ship to the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday.

This is the first time SpaceX has launched Cygnus, whose previous 19 missions involved Antares or Atlas rockets.

The spaceflight company led by Elon Musk used its Falcon 9 rocket to launch the Cygnus cargo ship from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The craft is carrying science experiments, food and other essential supplies for the ISS crew, and will dock with the station on Thursday morning.

Tuesday’s launch marked the 10th flight of this first stage booster, which previously launched Crew-5, GPS III Space Vehicle 06, Inmarsat I6-F2, CRS-28, Intelsat G-37, and four Starlink missions.

The reuse of the Falcon 9 booster was made possible by SpaceX’s development of a smart landing procedure that brought the vehicle back to Earth for an upright landing about eight minutes after launch.

After a number of failed attempts, SpaceX first achieved the feat in 2015 and has since perfected the system to the point where errors are now rare.

The booster’s return on Tuesday was captured in some dramatic close-up footage that tracked it back to its landing position near the launch site at Kennedy. You can watch it below:

The Falcon 9’s first stage returned to Earth and landed at Landing Zone 1, completing our 10th launch and landing of the year pic.twitter.com/MoqpgEt2hg

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 30, 2024

SpaceX’s diagram shows the route the 42.1-meter-tall booster takes to land on land (slightly different when heading to a drone in the ocean).

Diagram showing the Falcon 9 booster landing process.
SpaceX

After releasing the upper stage, the booster must perform a critical flip maneuver followed by a carefully timed boostback burn in order to land safely and successfully. In the final stages of its descent, the booster deploys lattice fins to stabilize the vehicle, followed by an intake burn to slow it down and clear the way for a soft landing.

After inspection and repair, the booster can be used for other missions. The current record for the number of missions flown by a single Falcon 9 booster is 19. Booster 1058 will almost certainly fly again but suffered irreparable damage in December when it crashed on a drone on its way to base after its 19th landing. .

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