Lift off. Photo by: Kyle Montgomery -NHS
2:42 AM Est atop a Falcon 9 rocket from SLC-40 at Canaveral Space Force Station
History was made early this morning as the aerospace giant, Space Exploration Technologies inc., better known as SpaceX has successfully flown the same first stage rocket booster ten times. Why is this such a big deal? Well the cost to re-fly a booster drastically cuts down the cost of launching payloads to orbit. SpaceX had the idea to re fly the first stage of rockets many years back and most experts in the field thought it was absurd, that there was no way to possible make it happen. That is just what they did however, in March of 2017 the company flew the same booster for the second time! In order to do so, they first had to land the first stage safely back on Earth. To do this they developed software, and hardware to guide the boosters back to their target areas, mostly a drone ship barge out in the Atlantic ocean. That way if something went wrong there was less chance of anyone being injured during the landing procedures. The boosters now will occasionally land back at the landing zone at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station if the mission requirements allow enough fuel for the rocket to safely return that far back.
Tonight’s booster, 1051 came into operation for SpaceX back in March of 2019 when it first launched from LC-39A during the DM-1 mission. That was the un-crewed launch of the Crew Dragon capsule where the company proved it’s merit and docked their capsule safely to the International Space Station and showed the word that a private company could successfully launch & land a capsule back from space while keeping its crew harm free. Three months later 1051 made a trip across the country to launch from Vandenburg Air Force Station for the RADARSAT constellation mission, then it was back to Florida where it’s been ever since. It launched four Starlink missions before a commercial payload for the SXM-7 mission where Sirius Broadcasting sent up their newest satellite. Before this morning it flew two more Starlink missions, bringing it’s total flights to nine. A number not seen by any other booster except from 1049 when it flew it’s latest mission less than a week ago.
This mornings weather forecast, as usual brought to us by the 45th Space Wing called for 80% favorable conditions, with the only concern being the Cumulous Cloud Rule. As launch time approached there were few clouds in the sky with the stars shining brightly over the Atlantic Ocean where SpaceX has their autonomous drone ship “Just Read The Instructions” waiting about 613km offshore for the booster to land atop of, roughly eight minutes after lifting off from the space coast. When it touched down it became the 83rd booster landing for the company, a far number away from the impossible that many believed would be the answer. Along with tonight being the first, tenth launch of a first stage booster it also marks the fourteenth launch of a Falcon 9 rocket this year, (2021) all of which have flown previously. That is a grand total of 117 Falcon 9 launches, with sixty-three of those launches being re-flown boosters.