Space

Falcon 9 beats the odds with nighttime barge landing

JCSAT-14 lifting off
JCSAT-14 lifting off
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Friday's launch was an attempt at a second successful barge landing.
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Friday's launch was an attempt at a second successful barge landing.
JCSAT-14 atop the Falcon 9
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JCSAT-14 atop the Falcon 9
Flacon 9 with lightning protectors
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Flacon 9 with lightning protectors
The Falcon 9 upright
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The Falcon 9 upright
JCSAT-14 on the launch pad
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JCSAT-14 on the launch pad
JCSAT-14 lifting off
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JCSAT-14 lifting off
The Falcon 9 touching down
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The Falcon 9 touching down

SpaceX has nailed a night landing of its Falcon 9 booster. Against all expectations, the rocket not only achieved its second landing on the unmanned "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship, but did so in the dark, at high speed and with little fuel.

The Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 1:21 am EDT during a two-hour launch window. At one minute and 20 seconds into the flight, it reached the point of maximum stress (Max Q) and the first stage shut down at the two minute 38 seconds, with second stage separation three seconds later. After second stage firing was completed, its satellite payload deployed at about the 32-minute mark.

Meanwhile, the Falcon 9 booster autonomously carried out its powered reentry maneuver that brought it down on the barge, which was positioned downrange in the Atlantic Ocean. According to SpaceX, the high velocity required to return from a Geostationary Transfer Orbit trajectory combined with the low fuel reserved meant that the chances of a successful landing were poor. However, to the surprise of mission control and a crowd of spectators, the Falcon 9 landed on the droneship with what looked like almost routine ease.

The Falcon 9 touching down
The Falcon 9 touching down

The purpose of the experiment was to collect more data for SpaceX's program to develop a fully reusable launch system.

The landing, which will provide more data for SpaceX's program to develop a fully reusable launch system, was conducted during the launch of the JCSAT-14 mission to place a telecommunications satellite for Japan's SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation. The Space Systems Loral (SSL) telecommunications satellite will provide mobile coverage for the Asia-Pacific region.

Source: SpaceX

8 comments
Racqia Dvorak
Bravo! Excellent news.
MattII
Oh come on, that's just showing off.
CharlesIvie
The SPACEX Falcon 9 barge landing is an excellent example of what a well designed multi dimensional servomechanism can do. Considering that the sensors are a combination of RF and inertial the fact that it can be done at night is interesting but not truly remarkable. The system does not use passive optical sensors as part of the process so the presence of daylight is irrelevant.
JimmyXi
Elon Musk's crew of about 4,000 could replace a large part of the 18,000 clock-punchers at NASA who had the Shuttle flying around the DC beltway for decades ..going nowhere fast – expensively. Jimmy
Noel K Frothingham
Charles, there are numerous optical sensors on the market that do not use visible light, much less daylight, as their basis for operation. Jimmy, Elon Musk/SpaceX are part of the solution, not THE solution.
MintHenryJ
Space X never ceases to impress. However, being limited to the daylight spectrum is hardly an issue here.
habakak
Iron-man strikes again! I hope this continues and builds to the next phase. Launching one of these previously used rockets. And then hopefully re-land it. And repeat a few times.
sheila
Love redefined. Looking forward to watching next next and next success of SpaceX from my Tesla 3 powered by my own SolarCity system powering my own Tesla Battery Pack located on my S.Cal ranch. Cheers from the same Solar System
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